Isaac Golub has a voice made for hardcore. Gruff, booming, and authoritative, his vocals helped make A Chorus of Disapproval one of the hardest-hitting hardcore bands of the early '90s. Their Truth Gives Wings to Strength album from sounds as savage today as it did when Nemesis Records first dropped it on the world in 1991. In addition to A Chorus of Disapproval, Isaac has lent his talents to several projects, most known of which was Amendment Eighteen, a band that also featured members of Insted, Freewill, and other SoCal outfits.
Not satisfied unless he's creating new music, Isaac is current fronting Dear Furious. Formed earlier this year, the group is rounded out by guitarist Mike Hartsfield (New Age Records, Outspoken), drummer Matt Horwitz (Adamantium), bassist Marc Jackson (Throwdown), and guitarist Brian Manry (Mean Season), and they're gearing up for the release of their debut EP, expected soon on New Age Records.
The following is a recent chat I had with Isaac about his life in the Southern California hardcore scene.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Palo Alto, that's in Northern California. After a few years, my mother moved us back to be near our family in Riverside, CA. I was primarily raised in Pasadena and Costa Mesa, though. I'm that kid in school you never saw again and always wondered what happened to because I moved to a different city every four years! I was raised by my mother and there was always music in the house. My mother was and still is a fun free spirit, a hippie type, I suppose. There was always music in the house, no matter where we were! Always Beatles, always Stones, always Eagles! Plenty of Bowie, Joni Mitchell, and America. But there were times where there would be weird shit on too, like Zappa.
I have to ask because of your general age group, KISS?
No, I was never a KISS guy. My uncle had a lot of "hipper" records than my mom. He had Devo, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and those were crazy-sounding to me, and I fell in love immediately. He had the KISS records and he played them, and I thought the make-up and outfits were awesome, but I never enjoyed the music much.
In fact, I only like three KISS songs: "Strutter," "Love Gun," and "Lick it Up." The band I was most into as kid were The Beatles. Paul McCartney is the reason I wanted and got a bass as a kid. I stayed pretty bubblegum until I discovered Rodney on The Roq in 1982.
Tell me a bit about your experience with growing up in Southern California during that time.
When I was young, arcades were the place to be! Pasadena in the summer is hot! We did anything to keep cool. Movies, the mall, arcades. I spent most of my days in a space age themed arcade on Colorado Blvd, the name escapes me. They offered two for one tokens everyday. So if Ma Dukes gave me a fiver for the day while she was at work in downtown LA, I would buy a 3 Musketeers and 16oz Pepsi and head down to the arcade for 3-4 hours of bleeps, blips, crash, and bangs. I had a completely wack 10-speed bike with the handle bars flipped up. I hadn't really discovered skateboarding yet by 1982, so I usually just walked the 1.5 miles from 577 N. Michigan Pasadena, CA. Across the 215, past the old Poo Bah Records and down to Colorado.
I met an older boy at this arcade named Aaron. He had a leather jacket with a painted "DK" on the back, liberty spikes, motorcycle boots, and an orange 71 VW Squareback. He turned me on to a lot of punk rock, but most importantly, took me to my first two punk shows. I had to lie to my mom about sleeping over at a friends and I'm sure I'll be busted when she reads this, but those two shows were essential in making me who I am today.
In 1982, we went to see U.K. Subs at Perkins Palace in my first real punk rock experience. In the summer of '83, we moved away from my nutty Vietnam veteran alcoholic step-father to the City of Costa Mesa, a mile from Newport Beach. There I discovered skateboarding and boogie boarding on day one. The next four years were a blur of skating, punk shows, beach days with the 52nd St. Punks, and Little Caesars.
So he was your gateway into hardcore and punk. Anyone else help steer you in that direction?
In 1982, Luigi Accenelli turned me on to Rodney on The Roq, Sunday nights on 106.7 KROQ. Luigi also had a full-on punker brother who lived in the garage converted into a crash pad, and a punk band call Why Nut. Luigi and I started a punk rock band that same year called Short Circuit. It was Me, Luigi, Sam Kurtz, Tony Kazan, and John Segura at first, but he quit or something. We played the Wilson Junior High talent show and placed second.
Anyways.... Rodney played a lot of shit I didn't like, but then again a lot of shit I did like. Between Luigi, Rodney, Short Circuit, and Punk Boy Aaron, I learned the punk rock basics and moved to Orange County completely illuminated.
You mentioned the U.K. Subs show from 1982. What memories stand out from that night?
I did the bad boy sneak on mom's and snuck out with Punk Boy Aaron, using a sleepover at my best friend Tod Manders's house as my out. Aaron told everyone he knew at the gig I was his little brother. I was 12. It was a crazy introduction to live punk rock. Smelled so foul in there. Sweat, piss, wet leather, cigarette smoke, Aqua Net, vomit, coagulating blood, all in one big healthy whiff.
Aaron went into the pit but I was scared so shitless, he would smile and wave me in every loop. One loop I finally said, "Fuck it," and stepped in. I was immediately hammered to the floor, but Big Frank saved my ass before he was Big Frank (I talk about it in his book). After Aaron encouraged and Frank helped, being able to get in and stay in the pit would last until today.
I recently asked Dan O’Mahony (No For An Answer, Carry Nation) this, but from your standpoint, do you think the Orange County hardcore scene of the ‘80s was very violent?
Well punk rock has always been violent. The speed, the anger, the attitude, the dancing. So yes, of course. As the mid to late '80s punk and hardcore scene really started to grow and become a staple, the gang element did find its way in. Just like now only now they are called Crews.
There was a different kind of fear introduced then though. As kids we were all wary at first to get in the pit or dive because we didn't want to hurt ourselves and explain to our parents what happened and why. It started to get to the point where you were more worried about getting bum rushed, dog piled, and beat down for no reason. But there was no way we aren't going to go to shows!
A bunch of us formed an alliance in our scene, the straight edge aspect of that really saved a lot of our asses. We could move in groups and not be worried, we could handle things better as a team if violence popped off, we knew we were all safer in packs. It got very violent at Fender's and The Olympic. I was popped a few times by LADS, I was threatened and dragged out of Fenders by Sons of Samoa, I was always expecting rogue elbows from Circle One, and The Sui's were straight nutzo to everyone.
When did you first declare yourself straight edge, and what did your moms think when you told her about your decision?
Late 1984, I picked up the Uniform Choice demo after seeing them a few times at The Concert Factory just a block away from my place at 714 Shalimar Dr. Costa Mesa, CA. Between already being obsessed with 7 Seconds and Minor Threat, at this point, and knowing what they all stand for, and needing a way to navigate the pain of abandonment, and trying to cope with the then recent fatal heroin overdose of my father.... straight edge found me. That UC demo finally drove the point home for me to be myself, speak out, don't let anyone push me around, keep a clear mind and a true heart.
Late 1984, I put on my first X. My mother was very open and understanding of the music I listened to. I think she saw it as protest music just like she had experienced in the '60s. I seem to remember her saying she read the lyrics on a lyric sheet one time and said, "I didn't know these bands sang about anti drugs and alcohol?" She seemed impressed at my stance and the path I had chosen.
Although I am not straight edge now, it is still a big part of who I am/was and would never pass it off as a phase or try to pretend it wasn't important like some other sellouts.
There have been people who have said that the straight edge scene in SoCal was too clicky. Thinking back, do you think that’s a fair assessment on the whole thing?
Yeah, it got cliquish more in the later '80s, into the '90s. So much so that the punk rock diversity died and it became bands preaching to the converted. On a six-band bill they'd all have the same view and same thoughts. Same words, same clothes, same sneakers, and same judgements and hang ups. Gone were the days where Uniform Choice opens up for a band like Raw Power or Nuclear Assault. It was all fanny packs, Air Jordans, and Youth of Today tees for a good few years there... me included.
You played in a band before A Chorus of Disapproval called Identity. Did you guys ever release anything?
I'm glad you asked me about this because there's a good story here. Identity was originally me on guitar (but then I switched to vocals), Rob Hayworth on second guitar, a left-handed bass player named Tom from Huntington Beach, and I can't remember the drummer's name. Dave Brooks was originally the singer but I think they kicked him out after the first practice.
We practiced exclusively at Stompbox in Anaheim. Insted, Virulence (aka Fu Manchu), No For An Answer, No Doubt, and Uniform Choice all practiced there, along with many others. We were not very good at all and only lasted a year and a half, if that, but we had a few decent songs, one of which I was singing once when [Uniform Choice singer] Pat Dubar came in our room, leaned against the wall and nodded his head to the beat. I had never officially met him or said three words to the guy, but dude was my hero, so him coming into our room unsolicited was a huge deal to me. I was probably wearing a Uniform Choice shirt too, like a dolt.
I love everything about Uniform Choice, even Staring Into the Sun, unapologetically. I can however without hesitation tell you in all honestly, the line "I Am.... You are!" from the Region of Ice 7" was borrowed either accidentally or purposely both lyrically and phonetically from that Identity practice. I mean our song was even called "I Am, You Are." Cubby Hayworth might remember.
The borrow could have been accidental or subliminal but I know Uniform Choice borrowed a lot of stuff. From greeting cards, from Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlets, from Jonathan Swift. It's all good, though. It's just an interesting, not well-known story. Believe it or not. The end of Identity came when No For Answer took Rob Hayworth from us. He was the riff writer. We folded shortly after.
So, how did A Chorus of Disapproval get started? I know Jeff Banks had already played guitar in Visual Discrimination. What drew you guys to each other?
I was a Visual Discrimination groupie and stole Banks away to start something new! Sort of. I met Banks through Sterling Wilson (No For An Answer) and Vic DiCara (108, Beyond, Inside Out, Shelter) while he was still in Visual Discrimination. I loved VD first listen! I love the Denial demo! I loved the Dead Tradition tape I heard! So, I was a fan of all those dudes.... I went to every show, knew every lyric. Great times. At this point, Banks, [Steve] Winders, and I were fairly inseparable. We shared a common love for metal/hardcore, shit talking, hijinks, comedy, and Del Taco pretty much united us for life.
I could start to sense Banks' dissatisfaction with VD. One practice in particular really seemed to be the end. VD was in a big practice room at Band West and some of the guys had brought their girlfriends. Not really a problem on its own, but all the guys seemed fairly uninterested in the two new songs Banks brought in and were paying more attention to the ladies. At $12 per hour in the big room back then? That's a problem! Banks had brought them what later became "Loyal" by The Chorus, and they were playing it and Banks was side-eyeing me and giving "Nope Face." I knew he was done. We packed up, I don't think we said goodbye, and went to Del Taco on State College and Orangewood.
I have a permanent scar on my left pinky from this practice from a butterfly knife I was practicing with. It's a permanent reminder of the day I knew The Chorus was going to be a real thing. We started this "talk only" harder straight edge band akin to Judge months and months earlier. I always had lyrics and would read them to Banks in a very overly dramatically intense Rollins spoken word vibe (sort of like how I do karaoke.
Shouts to Kona Lanes and The Bel Congo!). One day, I rolled out to Cerritos Park East where he ran an after-school program. I had come up with the name Boiling Point the day before and was going to lay it on him that day. I tell him the name and he in turn hands me a cassette of riffs. Fuck. Boiling Point was official. Fast forward a few months we end up in a garage studio in Torrance or El Segundo or some shit. We recorded what would be known as The Boiling Point demo. It was three originals and two covers. Not long after Banks used "Enough Said" from the Boiling Point demo on VD's In Vain LP.
Wow. I had no idea "Enough Said" wasn't originally a Visual Discrimination song.
A short time thereafter, we changed the name, Banks quit VD officially, and The Chorus was in second gear. We only ever wanted Regis on bass. Never any other choice. Regis was a hardcore soldier, ask anyone. At every show. On every stage or taking on and easily besting 2-3 skinheads at a time. He was in Back to Back with John Coyle (Outspoken), they were infamous for "jumping on the end of someone's set."
Which is to play the last one or two songs of someone's set. Usually Insted's set I think, they were always good about backing their friends. Back to Back's hit was "Together," a dog pile sing-along classic. We would taunt Regis by walking past him saying, "We got our eye on you, Regis." One day I think he just said, "You want me to play bass in your band, right?" Beans spilled, Regis was ours!
SEE ALSO: Parody Hardcore Bands
What was the OC/LA hardcore scene like back when A Chorus of Disapproval first began?
It was very transitional. 1988—89 was in a way a crossroad. Fender's Ballroom was way violent. Lots of fights, gang violence, drug use, etc. Once a main hub for many of us to enjoy hardcore, punk, and metal was becoming increasingly shitty and they eventually lost the their license and shut the doors. A few dumb punks (and I don't mean punk rockers, I mean when you call someone in prison a punk) ruined it for everyone especially themselves with their "we don't care" attitudes.
Killed our venue, killed our childhood. These attitudes fueled my Chorus ire. "You fucking losers ruined it with your gangs, your drugs, your nihilistic attitudes." And just like that the scene separated. Punks played punk shows exclusively. Hardcore shows had hardcore bands exclusively. The unity in the punk scene as a whole then was pretty much done for. Until Spanky's came along....
How did you first hook up with “Big” Frank Harrison of Nemesis Records? He obviously championed the band, but did you talk to any other labels before agreeing to do a record with him?
Frank was a punk/hardcore staple in the West Coast scene. You wanted to know Frank and you wanted him to know you. Being friends with or being in the good graces of Frank was a sweet relief. He's the scariest nice guy ever! He worked all the older punk shows and we all grew up staring at him on stage with the bands when they played. We watched him pummel Nazis and drag drunk troublemakers out by their necks. He worked at Zed Records almost everyday and we were all there all of the time. Banks was closer to Frank and they knew each other a little better than Frank and I. They played basketball together and worked Sunset Strip security shows together. So when Banks told Frank what we were up to, he lit up like a fire alarm.
We did the Boiling Point demo and Banks was excited to get it into Frank's rather large scary hands. Once Frank heard it, it was over. He said right then and there he'd put out our 7". We had our heights set a little higher and said we'd be skipping a 7" altogether and just going right to a full-length. Frank said he couldn't fund that sight unseen. Banks was determined and withdrew $800 from his college fund (which I remember his mom not being to stoked about) and into Westbeach we went.
While we were recording our LP, Frank came to the studio and upon hearing the recording of "No Part," he picked his jaw up off of the floor and said while sitting at the mixing board he'd put it out. Then promised to reimburse Banks the $800 recording cost.
One day while Frank wasn't there, [Epitaph Records owner, Bad Religion guitarist] Brett Gurewitz said very matter of factly, "If you guys didn't already have a deal with Frank, I'd sign you in a second." We smiled politely and thanked him just the same. Loyalty used to go a long way.
Most people know Brett from Bad Religion and Epitaph Records. What was recording with him like? Were you a big Bad Religion fan, or did you work with him based off his other recordings?
Oh, fuck yes, we were fans of Bad Religion, me especially. But we recorded there because I think the Headfirst 7" might have been recorded there and Insted recorded What We Believe there. Now, I liked Bonds of Friendship musically better, but the What We Believe recording sounded so big. It sounded so professional. We wanted that. It was very strange to me, almost surreal that I was working with what at the time I considered a punk icon.
We would record a song and get it to a place where we thought it was good, he'd put it on a cassette and we'd go listen to it in his Volvo station wagon. He'd pump it loud and we'd rock out, then he'd turn it down real low. Whatever sound you could hear the most and loudest when the song is low would be turned down in the permanent mix. Brett was very kind, helpful, and seemed committed to us sounding amazing.
One day, Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion) came in while we were mixing "Just Cant Hate Enough." I got a mental boner as I was formally introduced to yet another hardcore punk rock hero [laughs]. Wearing baggy shorts and a King's hockey jersey, he stood there, banging his head to a perfectly timed cadence of "I JUST...CANT HATE... ENOUGH!" The song was over and he kept repeating it loudly. So, a Circle Jerk and two Bad Religions love our shit?
Damn, man... That summer was a life's highlight moment. I can honestly say now after all these years that I had pretty much wished the whole time we could get out of the "Nemesis deal" and just start on the level Insted was already at with Epitaph. That wish became regret as our relationship with Frank strained later on.
What was the reaction like when the album came out?
Mostly an amazing response. Kids knew all the words, dog piles, and sing-along's nightly. We played a lot of great shows, a few decent mini tours. We knew we were the new local "big band." Our potential was enormous, we're talking Sick of It All/Judge potential! Alas university was a bit more important to a couple of fellas. Can't fault them but I also can't help but pine over the possibilities we squandered or passed up. There were some naysayers and shit-talkers.
Billy Rubin from Half Off called us "more like A Chorus of Disillusion..." That statement almost got him a split lip, but I knew he'd sail away from the scene soon enough, so I chilled. Most people that talked shit about us usually ended up tapping out of the scene, or faded away into obscurity, or just grew weary of the direction hardcore was heading and the way we were taking. The latter of which I can understand. My mother came to a show one time and hundreds of kids were repeating my words, singing along, taking over the stage with wild abandon. She was dumbfounded and amazed. Proud of her son and didn't stop pumping me up for days. Playing a "sellout crowd" in front of my mom and impressing a woman who saw The Doors, Hendrix, Janis, and the like, was one of my shining achievements.
Tell me what “militant edge” meant to you back then.
I will answer this question short and sweet. In 1974, my father was convicted and sent to prison for negligent vehicular homicide while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. 10 years after, shortly after serving a number of years with the Oregon Department of Corrections, he died, writhing and in pain, on a dirty kitchen floor of a heroin overdose. No phone to call 911, no neighbors had phones, his lady had to run blocks to find a phone.
By the time she returned, well...? Cold, alone, dead. When that happened, my only thought at the time was, "He got what he deserved." I was young and angry. I felt abandoned and worthless. I was boiling inside for a great number of years and was inconsolable and only anger, hate, and disgust kept me warm. That's what the militant edge meant to me since the day I coined the phrase, on or about June 28, 1987. I've grown since then, emotionally and intelligently, and I have forgiven my father. I am now able to positively direct my emotions whenever those feeling surface.
Truth Gives Wings to Strength stands as one of the angriest albums of that era of hardcore. How do you feel about the album today?
Most of the anger in that album was still well cooking inside of me since the death of my father 3-4 years prior. Did I say most? Probably all of my anger at the time was based on that issue and trying to come to grips with my lineage. No fucking way I was going to become like that man. I avoided and burnt the bridges of that side of my family out of what I thought was shame and embarrassment.
I unfairly excommunicated myself from my father's family based on a childish "guilty by association" thought process. Those are all regrettable judgements and feelings I wish I could go back and change. My anger was really real. Now? That album is unlistenable to me, mainly because of my voice. My voice got so much better as I stuck with the scene for the past 35 years.
I just don't enjoy listening to the recorded songs as much as when I was say, 23. I love playing them live, though, for sure! I enjoy having fun little reunions from time to time if it benefits someone deserving.
The next A Chorus of Disapproval release was the Full Circle Stop 7” in 1991. I’ve always wanted to ask someone from the band this, but the opening guitar riff on the title track has always reminded me of the main riff in “Pull the Plug,” a song by the band Death. Is that pure coincidence as far as you know?
That is not a coincidence at all. We took it. Made it as much ours as it is theirs! Look, we didn't know Internet was going to be a thing! We didn't think anyone from our scene would notice or care. Brian Manry was the first to call me out on it EARLY on in one of our first hangs back in the day. I knew then that the cat would be out of the bag soon enough at that point. It's a great intro, one of our staples. Death owes us a debt of gratitude. Oops, I'm mean...
For comparison sake:
“A Way Out” from that 7” is one of my favorite A Chorus of Disapproval songs. It seemed like you were writing about feeling let down by someone who was close to you.
Most people attribute all the lyrics from The Chorus to me, while it's true I wrote most, Banks had his hand in the lyrics, too. That was by design. For example, Banks wrote all the lyrics to "Just Can't Hate Enough" (I think I came up with "just cant hate enough" as the hook and "clean up your act now!"). He co-wrote a few others as well. He wrote all the lyrics to "A Way Out," except the end breakdown (I wrote that) the night before recording it.
Lyrically, I have always felt it was a feeling of watching friends slowly fade from view as paths in life change. Maybe a Banks interview is in order, huh?
Was the band touring a lot during those years?
We didn't tour much. Two dudes were in college so it wasn't as easy to be as busy as we should have been in my opinion. In fact, I can tell you all the touring we did in two sentences. We went to Arizona alone and Salt Lake City with Black Spot, respectively, in 1993. Toured Europe and a short East Coast tour in the summer of '94. That's it. Should have been more, could have been more. But I'm not a solo artist ya know?
The final A Chorus of Disapproval release was The Italian 7” in 1993. Like the band’s previous outings, that record has sampled movie dialogue used as an intro. That’s something a lot of bands ended up doing later in the ‘90s and ‘00s.
We are lovers of cinema. We love movies, old TV shows, and some of those movies and things are just as part of who we were/are as a band as our music and individual personalities. Samples on the LP include The Godfather and The White Shadow. The sample on the Nemesis bootleg 7" is from The Three Amigos. The sample at the beginning of The Italian 7" is Pacino for the Dick Tracy movie with Madonna.
I know we didn't invent sampling movie dialogue, but we were very famous for it and it became a regular thing after 1988. Also, I cant think of a band that was bookending their name with X's before us. I'll take credit for that shit unless I'm proven otherwise.
Why did A Chorus of Disapproval break up, and was there any bad blood after it happened?
We have never officially broke up. We never said it was over. We never had beef or a fight. Banks, Regis, Davies, and I are still good friends. It's a headache sometimes trying to get together and do stuff but we are not currently "broke up." It is very doubtful we will ever record again, but a show from time to time, maybe.
When did you play in Cointelpro, and what kind of style was it? I’ve never heard any music from that band.
Cointelpro, yea that was fun! 1994 I was looking at ads in back of BAM Magazine and saw a "Vocalist Wanted" ad that interested me. They were looking for a hip-hop vocalist, not so much an MC, but something a little harder. Rage Against the Machine was huge and nü metal was kind of beginning. I knew none of those guys were doing anything I couldn't do and their success was as it has always been for decades, luck.
So I took the long trek down to San Diego and anted up! Never met those dudes, never crossed paths ever, just went for it. Freestyled some shit, rapped some shit I had memorized that I wrote, got really loud.
By the time I got back to OC at 2am, there was a message that I was in. Aggressive hip-hop, socially conscious lyrics, semi-political. We played a lot of San Diego shows, a show at Cal State Fullerton. We had a little notice and Epic Records was interested for about 32 seconds. I'm still great friends with the bass player, Mandla. Shouts Pippen! Check out a track below!
What’s the deal with Caste, a band you were in the mid-‘90s? The only thing I know from that group were the two songs on the Guilty by Association compilation that Indecision Records released in 1995.
Yeah, that was fun for a minute. It was me, Regis, Jason Hampton, and PT. We played maybe three shows, and made a two-song demo. [Indecision Records owner] Dave Mandel asked to put a song on his comp of newer bands.
That band was Regis and I trying to pick up where Chorus left off. Pretty good short-lived band, like many others. Not much else to say.
Your next band was Amendment Eighteen (A.18), which also featured Mike Hartsfield (Outspoken, New Age Records). When I interviewed Mike earlier this year, this is what he had to say about that band’s mission statement: “It was a huge middle finger to a lot of things we were sick of in the ’90s.”
A.18 was one of the biggest successful failures of my life. I love my history and accomplishments much more from A.18 than The Chorus. So much so I often don't even refer to The Chorus as the "main thing" I've done musically. I refer more to A.18 for that. The funniest thing about it is that when Mike and I talked about doing a band in '98, I in no way wanted to do a hardcore band.
I wanted to do something heavy but not hardcore. I think I told Mike, "Something a bit more 'Deftones.'" We started out at a USA Storage spot over by Golden West College. We practiced there in a shared room with someone. The post-Mean Season band Revolvers practiced there, and a bunch others. The first couple riffs Mike brought were definitely hardcore riffs, so I said "Fuck it. Do what ya do!" As we progressed, hardcore had started to become something else. A lot more fashion-forward metro-sexual bands started to appear. Make-up, dance moves, synchronized jumps and spins.
Look, I experienced and lived through the real hair metal days. I saw Nitro and Lickity Split at The Cathouse. I saw Child Saint and Pretty Boy Floyd at Jezebel's. Although fun, not hardcore.
So, there was A.18, standing in our baggy shorts, hoodies, and Vans at a "hardcore show" while the bands playing were licking the necks of their basses, winking, and blowing kisses at the crowd... Cool and all I guess, but it sorta took the "hard" out of hardcore. Hot Topic was the new Zed Records and gaudy 7-color eye crime t-shirts were the new not-so-hardcore fashion. Plus, dudes selling out left and right and calling The Edge a phase and claiming that they just "grew up." It all became laughable, so we ran with it a little. We never became a big band because we weren't doing what the kids or labels wanted at the time. A time that now even some of the guys in the bands I described above would now admit a slight embarrassment too. So, I agree with Mike's statement a little in those aspects.
The bottom line for me is A.18 was one of the most slept-on bands of the late '90s and '00s. We recorded some great tunes, had fun tours, got our video for "Broke the Blue" on MTV a bunch of times, even made some money. Through our publishing deal with Victory, they got some snippets of our songs on TV shows like Room Raiders, Road Rules, and one other.
I started getting decent ASCAP checks in the mail for my share and I was loving it. I felt like a professional musician! I started telling people I was a professional musician and shit [laughs]. Those few years are the only time I've ever been paid for hardcore, and I'll admit, it felt good.
After releasing one album on Mike’s New Age Records label, Amendment Eighteen signed with Victory Records. Now, whenever I interview someone who has been signed to that label, I have to ask them what their experience was like working with Tony Brummel.
Tony was/is a weird dude. I don't know him enough personally to cast even a small shadow on him but even he would probably say he's a weird dude! I mean, he was a hardcore dude that became a business man before hardcore dudes were becoming businessmen. Now everyone too old to mosh wants to start a fake Black Craft. He was/is successful based on a few things: Intelligence, a little luck, and good lawyers. He's not rich from hardcore necessarily, I think he made sound business choices and bought the publishing rights of a couple very famous songs.
Now, I've heard a lot of shit about him, and I'd bet dollars to donuts he's fucked people over. I can say he never fucked me over, but then again, I never had anything to take. He gave us a decent advance for both LPs and bailed us out after Revelation curiously dropped us before the ink was even dry on our deal. Tony called me personally three times to discuss our needs, our plans, and our goals.
After we signed and came to Chicago, we had a rad pizza party with Plan of Attack on the Victory roof with the Chicago skyline in the background. He communicated with us personally or though our inside man, Clint Billington, often. But then weirdness kicked in when we played a show at Fireside Bowl in Chicago and he shows up in flip-flops, way too short khaki shorts, a dad fishing hat, and a white-collared button up with little Marlin all over it. A little weird, but he never did anything outwardly lascivious to us. I was under no illusions.
We were signed to up his street cred because of Mike and I. I'm sure Tony knew, just like us, that we would not sell like Taking Back Sunday or Thursday, or any other band with a month or day of the week in their name. We were two positives in his eyes, I think: Street cred reup and a tax write off. I don't take either of those personally.
Amendment Eighteen did quite a bit of touring. How did you handle the home life/road balance? Was that something you struggled with?
Eh, yeah, that was tough. My first marriage was coming to an end, so I was happy to hit the road often, but I had a young son at the time. I have always been super close to Seever, especially when he was young, so leaving him was really tough. I put a huge map of the world in his room. I would call him daily from whatever city/country I was in and he would put a little sticker where I was. It made things a little easier on me at least.
Mike and I were both in a rare position where we worked for Costa Mesa Moving and could leave for tour and come back and out jobs would still be there. David Wilkes doesn't understand how awesome he made being in a hardcore band was. He was patient, understanding, and accepting of our extracurricular exploits. There are very few jobs where you can leave for six weeks and come back without missing a beat. So, in those times, money and job security was not an issue. Missing family sure was, though.
What were some of the A.18 highlights for you?
Oh man.... As silly as it sounds, having a video played on MTV is a top highlight. I felt like a legit musician, semi-successful, and "in the club." Making a few lifetime friends is a highlight, for sure. We played a fest in Europe that was 99% metalcore type bands (as an example, that show was Trivium's second euro show ever). We played our set and got two encores. That loud soccer chant pound on the stage style. "We don't have anymore songs guys...." I said. Someone yells, "Play them all again!"
What would you consider to be A.18's best song?
We were all goosebumped and pumped up! To me, "Jailhouse Rob" or "Gravelines" are probably in our top songs.
That brings us to Dear Furious. At an age where many of your contemporaries are reuniting with their old bands and playing shows without writing new music, you’ve decided to start something new. What drove that decision and was it tough to get back into the swing of things?
Haha, no it's not tough. I've never left the scene. I never ducked out of the party for 15 years and snuck back in like, "What I was here the whole time, in the back, you just didnt see me." Not for nothing, but I became a hardcore mainstay, so there's no getting back into the swing of things. The bands I've been in never determined who I was as a punk rocker. The Chorus isn't my identity, A.18 isn't the be all end all of my lyrical prowess.
I don't care if other dudes don't have the drive or originality to do something new. I don't feel the need to milk my own teat. I was known in the scene before Chorus and after. I was known in the scene before and after A.18. I may even die live on stage, who knows. Bands reforming and just playing the old shit and not trying anything new.... Eh. Boring.
What are your hopes for Dear Furious?
Record some banging tunes, play some shows, become a name on everyone's tongue. Prove once and for all that the musicians in this band are more than just pieces of the hardcore puzzle but the reasons their preceding bands were successful. This is my last band, I've made that clear to Mike and everyone else so pushing this as far as possible is the goal.
Closing this thing out, if you had to pick one song from your back catalog that you’re most proud of, which one would it be any why?
There are three songs that mean the most to me that I wrote. "Leave You Behind" is the song I get most nostalgic about. I wrote those lyrics in 1984, when I was 14, after the death of my father. My mother found them not long after and asked if I wrote that. I said I had and she was a bit surprised and said I was an old soul and wise beyond my years. That made me proud before it ever took its first breath as an actual song.
"Gravelines" from A.18 is another. It was the most intelligent metaphor for my love of hardcore that I have ever written, but they don't hear me though.
The Dear Furious song "Claws Out" is the first song Brian brought to the table, the music is a song he brought to Mean Season that he got tired of sitting on. I think there was some lagging that he was over so he gave it up and started this band. It's the first song I've ever released that I am proud to call a "love song." Or maybe I'm not as clever as I think I am. Who knows?