Joe Bruno: OG NYHC Roadie Shares Some of His Favorite Memories

Still from Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" music video

Joe Bruno was the first skinhead I met at my high school in 1985. He was a cool character that easily moved among the various metalhead/homeboy/punk/graffiti factions and I remember him holding court one day, while smoking in the boys' room, regaling us with tales of this crazy hardcore scene happening at CBGB’s in downtown Manhattan. When I eventually made it down there later that year; I was surprised to see him jump onstage to sing with Murphy’s Law and when I watched MTV, there was Joe again: bursting through a doorway in the Beastie Boys classic "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" music video.

I recently reconnected with Joe and wanted to talk about his background in the hardcore scene as well as being a “rock star roadie” and being present at some crucial junctures of NYC street subcultures.

Hey man, been a long time! Tell me where you grew up and how did you get into the hardcore scene?

I grew up on the border of Astoria and Long Island City, Queens, NY. I got into hardcore from friends in high school (Joe Bossler, Denny Bon, Matt O’Brian) and seeing [Murphy's Law frontman] Jimmy Gestapo coming home at all hours of the day and night. Jimmy and I grew up around the block from each other. Me on 33rd Avenue, him on 33rd Road. There was a common alleyway in the back where we lived down the block from each other. I wanted to start hanging out somewhere else besides Astoria, too many dickheads in my neighborhood. Joe Graci was another dude from Jimmy’s block and a dude named Steve Leung lived down the block on 23rd Street. Joe and Steve were older and turned me on to Cheap Trick and Riot. Then, somehow, they got into hardcore and gave me [seminal hardcore compilation] Flex Your Head on cassette.

They would go to CBGB’s, Irving Plaza, Mud Club, Max’s, 2+2. I think Joe, and Steve were the first ones doing interviews with bands and people in the hardcore scene but they never did anything with them. That’s just how they were. I think they might’ve did some live recording of the bands in the hardcore scene at that time (‘80-‘83?). Joe and Steve took the young crew in the neighborhood to see Circle Jerks at Irving Plaza, maybe in ’81-‘82. My mom wouldn’t let me go (too late at night). There were also Billy Phillips, Doug Holland (Kraut, Cro-Mags), and Dito Montiel (Urban Waste, Major Conflict) who I knew and hung with them somewhat. Joe Graci from Jimmy’s block got Dito into hardcore music. Check out NYHC Chronicles 10 Questions with Dito Montiel. My boy Rob Fuentes (Art & Design High School) hung out, too.

Then, in July of 1984, Gestapo took me up to Betty Skin Ass’s (Cycle Sluts From Hell, Hansel and Gretyl) apartment on 29th Street in Astoria. She cut my hair into a mohawk all spikes up about 8”, then we all went to Danceteria and I hooked up with some chick all punk rock down. The rest is history and never looked back from ‘84 to ’93, then from ‘95 to 2004.

Joe in the white w/ Murphy’s Law outside CBGB’s, 1986. (Photo: Glen E. Friedman)

Do you remember your first show and some of the earliest bands you saw?

My first show was at CBGB’s Saturday matinee in March of 1984. I tried to look up the headliner (don’t remember) but I know Bitter Uproar (with Big Rob) played. Some early shows I went to were at the Rock Hotel on 113 Jane Street, my favorite club, just walking there from 14th Street Union Square was the best. I saw Scream, Void there; that was a great show! Murphy’s Law, Unruled (pre-Leeway), Gilligan's Revenge, Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Government Issue, The Mob, Major Conflict just to name a few of the early bands I saw.

I know you always got up to sing "Burnt Toast" with Murphy’s Law. How did that come about? 

"Burnt Toast" came about around November of 1984. I was a roadie for Murphy’s Law since July ‘84 and Gestapo always wanted to play bass on a Murphy’s Law song. So, at one Murphy’s Law rehearsal I was at, Jimmy came up with the bass line (his inner Sid Vicious). I wrote the lyrics in biology class at Aviation High School. It was a song about getting high and not being straight edge. Murphy’s Law was and is the all-time drunk rock band. I think the first time I did "Burnt Toast," I just got up there and did it. It was a song you did not need to rehearse for, plus I loved showing off my vocal range to the chicks [laughs].                       

Joe singing "Burnt Toast" w/ Murphy’s Law at City Gardens, NJ, 1987. (Photo: Ken Salerno)

Did you ever sing or play in a band? I seem to remember you being in or somehow involved with Armed Citizens?

I was the lead singer in two bands: Barbed Wire Babies was the first band, the second being Armed Citizens, in which I was not the original lead singer. In Barbed Wire Babies we did one gig at CB’s, we just jumped stage and started playing. Well, I jumped on stage and started screaming. It was Roger from Agnostic Front on bass, Alex from Cause for Alarm on guitar, and Gaylien on drums. The only gig I ever did or they ever did?

“That was a punk band that my buddies had in ‘80 that broke up, I rehearsed briefly and got to play 1 show at CBGBs! I was on Quaaludes and probably made it through 2-3 songs!” —Roger Miret

But I said I was in that band for like a year, all about the chicks! I was in Armed Citizens for about 8 months. It was the second coming of that band: guitar (Richie Malice) and drums (Teddy Guzzy) the same, Johnny Waste on bass, and me on vocals were new. Guzzy played drums in Murphy’s Law when Harley left in ‘83-‘84. Our first and only gig was at CBGB’s on St. Patrick’s Day in 1985, a Sunday matinee. The day before was the parade, so Stu Psycho and me we went up to Harlem to look for "cherm sticks" [cigarettes dipped in angel dust juice]. We could not find any so we walked down to the parade, met up with some punks and they were panhandling the parade goers, letting them take pictures of them for beer money. Drank some beer and walked downtown to CBGB’s, think there was a Saturday matinee.

Joe singing w/ Raybeez and Nick YDL in the background, the Ritz, NYC, 1987. (Photo: Doug Thompson) 

From there we went to some rehearsal space on the West Side in the 30’s. Met up with Tony Dust (he always had dust), smoked some and then started playing Black Sabbath. I started singing on dust and blew out my voice for our big gig the next day with Murphy’s Law and Shok (pre-Sheer Terror). No voice at all the day of the gig but we went on and played anyway, it sucked. We also did two songs on Javi’s compilation record, One Big Crowd, on his Big City Records. It was bands from New York, Jersey, and Connecticut, not a bad compilation. Than that was it for Armed Citizen and me playing in bands.

The second and third songs on this compilation feat. Joe on vocals:

You went out as a roadie on the Licensed to Ill tour in 1987 with the Beastie Boys, Murphy’s Law, and Fishbone. Any stories you’d care to share?

I was on the Licensed to Ill tour 87’ as a roadie with Murphy’s Law, but I also did some work for the Beastie Boys before the tour started (Nov-Dec1986). I will give you a little back story of the time period I just mentioned: I met the Beastie Boys at some party (photographer) Glen E. Friedman took Jimmy Gestapo and me to (Jimmy already knew the Beasties, Glen E. and Rick Rubin). Mind you, I just met Glen E. that day, he was on a photo shoot with Murphy’s Law for their first album that was about to come out on Profile Records. It was August ‘86 and we went all around Astoria and Long Island City for the photo shoot. I think I might’ve met Glen E. in September of ‘84 when he was managing Suicidal Tendencies (he also produced their first record). Murphy’s Law played a surprise matinee on a Saturday at CBGB’s with Suicidal and Cause for Alarm (Glen E. hooked it up). Jimmy and I took acid before we left Astoria to go... what a kick ass show. I think that was the show where the New York and Suicidal beef started with Mike Muir.

Anyway Glen E. didn’t remember me and I did not remember him. That party was crazy and after the photo shoot I met the Original Concept (feat. Dr. Dre of Yo! MTV Raps). They wanted me on tour with them with Chaka Khan and El DeBarge (tour never panned out). Also found out what Moet champagne was that night [laughs]. Then we went downtown with Rick Rubin and chilled out at his crib. Sometime after that Rush Management wants to start fucking with Murphy’s Law, so we met Russell Simmons, Bill Alder, and Bill Stephney (fuckers loved Murphy’s Law).

Now back to November of 1986: The Beasties just dropped Licensed to Ill in the middle of November of ‘86. They were getting ready to shoot their first video for the album ("(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)") and they wanted the Murphy’s Law crew in it. I also did the video for "Hold It Now, Hit It" with them, plus a TV commercial for them at Tower Records, and the New Year’s Eve Rock N' Roll Ball 86’ into 87’. Mind you I did not get paid shit for any of this and I did not care. I just wanted to make sure Murphy’s Law and me were on that Licensed to Ill tour.

That tour started at the end of January ’87 (we left on Jan 25 ‘til April 18) with a week off at the end of March (Fishbone left, Public Enemy in). PE opened the tour for two weeks in April ‘87. There were two shows in New York before the tour started up: Beastie Boys/Murphy’s Law 12/26/86 at the Ritz and Beastie Boys/Murphy’s Law sometime in the middle of January 1987 at Nassau Community College. The Nassau show was legendary! We taught Jam Master Jay from Run-DMC how to stage dive, needless to say he lost his Adidas (no laces) after one or two stage dives. I think we might’ve found them after the show, classic!

One more tour story: Murphy’s Law finally makes it out to California, it’s late morning and the tour bus is parked in the Hollywood Palladium’s parking lot. We’re all getting up on the bus, opened up the curtains and see the Hollywood sign, fuck we made it! Then we probably smoked some weed and when Gestapo and Todd Youth jump out of the bus, they see Lyor Cohen (hip-hop record executive). Lyor was driving a Ferrari or some shit and they hit him up for money to get tattoos, from Mark Mahoney, I think? Lyor didn’t want to look cheap, being in the Ferrari and all. He gave them a $100 dollar bill and they were off to get tats on Hollywood Blvd.

What are your memories from the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" video shoot?

I do have some memories, that video was shot in mid-November of 1986, on a Sunday afternoon into the night. It was at Sonny Bak’s (I did not know Sonny) loft on Broadway and 18th Street across from Paragon Sports. It had a small entrance way, [hip-hop A&R legend] Dante Ross and me smoked an L in there and stunk it up [laughs]. The director was Ric Menello, co-director was Adam Dubin, and they were the coolest dudes in the room. I fucking love them guys. If you know the video, it’s shot the same way as when you see it on MTV, frame for frame. I called Uncle Al (Murphy’s Law) and told him to get his ass down there and be in this video. I knew it going to be the shit for end of ’86 and all of '87 and it was!

The best part was the pie fight at the end: I jump off a table and did a sort of a stage dive into Cey Adams, that shit look lit on film. People love it when I tell them I was in that video ‘til this day.

The legendary photographer Glen E Friedman talks about you helping out at some classic photo shoots for Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and others. Any stories that stick out?

Glen E. Friedman and me became really good friends after we met. The first photo shoot I went on with him was LL Cool J out in Queens, maybe St. Albans or Hollis? We had to roll from Manhattan early in the morning to go to LL grandmother’s house. The day before (12/20/1986) was the race killing in Howard Beach, NY. Glen E. and me were heading to an all-black neighborhood in Queens. The exact opposite a day later. I was sort of scared and I think Glen was a little too. We got out to his grandmother’s house and nobody answered the door. So we sat on the stoop and waited, two white guys sitting on a stoop in an all-black neighborhood the day after Howard Beach, not good somewhat. LL’s grandmother and nephew pull up in a cab coming back from church. His nephew was eyeballing us; he was a little kid. God only knows what was said at that church they came from about the Howard Beach incident. They went inside to wake up LL (people that knew him called him Todd). I think we waited outside ‘til he got ready to roll with outfits and jewelry.

The first shot Glen E. took that day of LL in front of the house was made into a poster for merchandise on his future tour. We went rolling around Farmers Boulevard and all that. Glen E. taking photos the whole way ‘til it got dark out. The last photos he took of LL was him standing on a car in front of a school. That shot was the cover of LL Cool J’s BAD album. Right after Christmas of 1986, he did a Beastie Boys photo session that I went with him on. It was sort of a famous session, where they crashed a supermarket. Glen E. was taking photos of them in the beer aisle in a shopping cart and the one under the arch in Washington Square Park, were MCA is jumping off a post and AD Rock is sitting on a skateboard with his 3-finger ring.

Photo: Glen E. Friedman

Did you go on to roadie for other bands?

Yes, I did go on to roadie for other bands after Murphy’s Law. Along the way I became a drum tech, stage manager, security, and mc. Right after Murphy’s Law, I went and worked for 24-7 Spyz in 1988 as a drum tech. Never really went on tour with the Spyz, just local gigs. Then Blitzspeer in ‘88-‘90 I was drum tech, back line, and mc, gigged up and down the East Coast. Mad Parade ‘90-‘91 drum tech, back line, local gigs. Smokin' Suckaz wit Logic (SSL) in ‘91-‘93 as a drum tech, back line, and mc. I got SSL signed to Epic Records/Sony Music with the help of Frankie LaRocka and Mike Schnapp, who worked at Epic at the time. SSL was a live hip-hop band, very avant-garde for the times. The band had some hype around them, William Morris as their booking agent, getting good gigs. I had to leave this band and go into treatment, 20 months in a therapeutic community where I got clean and re-educated myself, going to a technical college for HVAC/R.

I started working for Mad Parade/Psycho 69 in ‘94-‘96 as a drum tech, back line, and mc. Supla started playing with this band, he is the Billy Idol of Brazil. He was on the 5-year plan for music in NYC. I went with them to Brazil in march of 1996, to São Paulo for a week’s worth of shows with the Ramones. Ramones were doing their final tour. That shit was a blast in Brazil. I started working for Supla with his solo project ‘96-’97, doing local gigs. I was with D-Generation ‘97-‘98 as a drum tech, stage manager, security, and mc. Todd Youth hooked me up with this gig. Did a tour on the West Coast in September of 97’, then half way around the world with D-Generation/Green Day from Nov ‘97 thru Feb ‘98 (Nimrod tour).

Fucked around and did some one-off with Murphy’s Law, drum tech for Goat and Supla ‘99-2000. He was writing songs and doing video work. Supla went back to Brazil around November of 2000. His mother was running for mayor of São Paulo, Brazil, and he had to go back and help her with the campaign (she lost). Hesher was 2000-2001 as a drum tech, back line, and security. I went on tour with Hesher, a Midwest and East Coast run with Kottonmouth Kings. That was the last tour I ever went on. Hesher got dropped from the label, no Warped Tour in summer of 2001, got a bad taste in my mouth from Hesher. I never fucked with bands again.

Tell me about writing graffiti and your JOB ONE tagging name.

The book of JOB ONE TSW 718. I did not get JOB from the Bible (found out about that shit later, cool story though). We were 12 going on 13 and graffiti was becoming a big thing in the streets of Astoria. It was 1980, kids were getting into writing, whether on the streets like TSW (The Street Writers, ROB 78 prez.) or bombing the RR layups. I remember my crew STP (Smoke the Pot) and my twin brother John, don’t worry he don’t look like me, wrote JA (Junior Anarchist) not the original JA and my cousin Sean wrote SEEN 3. We went and out bought our Pilot magic markers (we did not rack too much shit, no skills and scared to get busted). We started pinning the sides and top. We were told to do this it makes the marker write better. JOB came about from the rolling papers. I was walking to my grade school (Most Precious Blood) and saw the JOB advertisement on a newsstand. It looked fucking cool with the diamond 0 in JOB.

So, now I’m JOB, the one came later. We started bombing lamp poles sideways and tags on wall, buildings and shit like that. We had no fucking piecing skills, so top to bottoms were out for my crew. We bombed the R layup once off the platform, we were scared shitless of Curly and Ferrara two DT’s (Train Detectives) that would fuck you up if they caught you writing. My boy WC (Wild Child) tried to help me out with piecing and gave me some JOB pieces he did, he also came up with JOB (Just Out Bombing). I tried to copy the pieces but it didn’t work out, just a fucking paper toy. My boy Butch years later said JOB stood for Just Off Balance and sometimes I would have to agree!

There were kids that I knew in Astoria that bombed streets and trains like a motherfucker:
KR, SN, RCA, BB,COB, AM, BAM, SB, FAME, KL, LI, PK, JT, RI, MACE, CONO, KB, JOHNNY B, CHISSY, NICK 23, KI, MR, JON… just to name a few.

I got to high school (Aviation) and a lot of kids I met were into graffiti. The school was all city and all dudes except for like 10 chicks (Queens Vocational HS was up the block and they had mad bitches so we were good with the chicks!). Kids from the Bronx, like KID FLEX, that was my boy. Brooklyn/Queens/Uptown. Kids bombed desks, coat closets, outside school on building, wherever. Junior year I started going downtown to fuck with the hardcore scene and met writers within the scene: STIG, MACKIE, SYSTEM. Then as time went on I met TEAM, HAZE, CEY, REVOLT, EZEC, KAVES, KOJAK, WISPER, SOB, BIONIC… just to name a few. I would mostly bomb some streets in the Lower East Side and every fucking dressing room I was in around the country and half-way around the world. Then around 2000 there was a graffiti come back for JOB ONE.

I was living out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with Al KOOL KOJAK -BIONIC and he was mad into graffiti. We would drive around Brooklyn and Queens trying to get legal walls, store front roll downs, any business that wanted a mural done. We got a few, the biggest was a metal wall of the fresh fish factory on the side of the BQE off Flushing Ave. We would white wash that wall every month and throw bombing top to bottom parties. Writers like KR, KAVES, TEAM, KOJAK-BIONIC, WHISPER, would show up and kill it. KOJAK help me do JOB fill-ins down on the wall and whatever got junked from across the wall. They bombed that wall the whole spring and summer of 2000.

Joe in 1986. (Photo: Brooke Smith-Lubensky)

What have you been up to as of late and do you keep up with the NYHC scene these days?

I moved out of NYC in 2004. My girl and I moved to Lake Placid, NY (god’s country). I work for a huge supermarket chain as a maintenance supervisor. In March of 2018 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I was pissing blood (gross hematuria). Yo! If you see blood in your urine, even a little bit, run to your primary or urologist. Not like me; I was that wait and see type of guy. They did a scope/biopsy and found a gigantic mass (tumor). Then went on to the urologist surgeon down in Albany, NY. Three months of chemotherapy (4 cycles). Chemo kicked my ass but I still work 30-32 hours a week through this shit. Took a few extra days on my heavy chemo day (Cisplatin). I stopped working in the beginning of September, surgery was October 4, 2018 down at Albany Med to remove the bladder (radical cystomy) with a lymph node dissection.

I spent a week in the hospital, pathology margins came back clean two weeks later, cancer free for now! Scans every 8 months so #fuckcancer. Back to work on December 3, 2018, thank god. That was your PSA on bladder cancer, it’s the fourth most common cancer in males in America. I keep up with the New York hardcore scene these days with my playlist and vicariously through bands on YouTube and social media. No shows in Lake Placid and I only make it down to NYC to see family and on holidays. Time is always short in NYC, no time for shows. Maybe in 2019 I will make time for shows?

Last question & this is more for our old Aviation High School heads: Did Scoop the security guard ever catch you smoking in the boys room?

Scoop did bust me smoking in the boys room and the other tall Jheri curl mother fucking guard always busted me and my boys Joe Bossler and Denny Bon. Joe and Denny were from Astoria, old-school Pyramid Crew 20th Ave and 31st, Astoria. Good times, Freddy, good times…

Joe in 2018.



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Tagged: beastie boys, murphy's law