In his latest piece for his A Hardcore Conversation interview series, Anthony Allen Begnal speaks with Jimmy Drescher, vocalist for legendary NYHC band, Murphy's Law. —Carlos Ramirez
You are Astoria’s own Jimmy G Drescher, singer of Murphy’s Law, correct?
You are of course from Astoria, Queens. What was it like growing up out there?
Born and raised in Astoria, Queens and I still live there. It’s great, it’s still great. It’s getting expensive because a lot of rich people figured out it’s great, now they’re moving in and everyone’s cashing in on it. Which of course turns into gentrification because then all the places that you grew up going to, that you thought would be there forever are getting pushed out because the landlords get greedy.
Yup, same old story there.
Yeah, well, it’s also people thinking they were gonna be comfortable there their whole lives in their businesses when they could’ve purchased the places a long time ago. It’s just like CBGB’s, ya know. Same thing, Hilly [Kristal] could’ve bought that place a long time ago.
I hear ya man. I worked at Hogs and Heifers in the Meatpacking District for 12 years and they got kicked out of there. I was like, how come no one bought the building back in the '90s when no one wanted to be down there?
Yeah, when the building was probably a 100,000 bucks.
Why do you think so many early NYHC bands like Kraut, Reagan Youth, Urban Waste, you guys and more were from out there in Astoria?
I think coming from Queens, we had the Ramones to follow, so it was like you’re growing up in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of music as it is in schoolyards and parks and people hanging out listening to rock 'n’ roll. This was before disco days, before rap, ya know, there was rock and that’s what everybody listened to.
Where you aware of and into the Ramones in the '70s?
Probably ’78, ’79 is when I got turned onto them. I was too young to go see them then but who’d’ve thunk it, years later I toured the US with them.
Were you ever at CB’s when Dee Dee was incognito hanging out at the sound booth during hardcore matinees?
Yeah sure, I was good friends with Dee Dee. He always hung out at shows and he would always hangout on St. Mark’s Place. He was always out and about.
I guess we kind of already touched on this but how did you end up discovering punk and hardcore and the Lower East Side?
My father’s from the Lower East Side and my mother’s from Brooklyn and my grandmother lived on Avenue B and 4th Street, so I would always be down there anyway, before punk rock. So, I always kind of gravitated down there and I’d see kids down there and friends of mine would go down there and hang out on St Mark’s Place and started to go to this place, A7, and the rest is pretty much history. I was always pretty much on the Lower East Side as it was, since my grandma lived a couple blocks away from A7.
So, did you know Harley Flanagan before hardcore, from down there, or did you guys meet from hardcore?
I met Harley from punk rock. I met Harley at Max’s Kansas City when he was in the Stimulators. He and I would hang out and get in a lot of trouble and have fun. That was before whatever happened with him, with everybody else.
Was Harley Flanagan really the first drummer in Murphy’s Law?
I think Ray Parada (ABomb ANation) might’ve been first but Harley was the first solid drummer in the band.
What made you decide to form a band to begin with?
Girls, free beer, and getting into clubs for free [laughs]. Ya know, what every other girl and guy does it for. And for glory, it was just fun and something to do.
I remember seeing Urban Waste at CBGB’s one time back in the day and you sang a song with them I think they called “The Heavy Metal Song” or something (note: we’ve since discovered it was a cover of "Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar) do you remember that?
I don’t remember the "heavy metal" song, but I’m sure I did something stupid like that [laughs].
So, this was probably before Murphy’s Law?
Oh, it had to be way before Murphy’s Law. Johnny Waste lived down the block from me, he lived in Ravenswood Projects. We used to literally practice in his bedroom in the projects.
Oh no shit, he told me Urban Waste did but he didn’t tell me you guys did as well.
Well, we did a couple times but Urban Waste always would. We would always jam in his room anyway, it was insane because we’d have like a full rig in this tiny little room. And kids would all hang out outside while we went crazy in there.
He told me some breakdancing crew would also practice in there.
The Dynamic Rockers came from around our neighborhood, those guys would always be around.
Were you at the infamous Fear performance on Saturday Night Live in 1981?
I was there but I didn’t get in. A bunch of people tipped one of the elevator guys some quaaludes and a bunch of us got in and I went with my girlfriend at the time to pick up a quart of beer and came back and everybody had already gotten in. So, we ran around crazy in Rockefeller Center trying to find our way in but we couldn’t do it. Everybody was going crazy in the greenroom and one of the camera people, back then just like it is now, everyone’s always trying to get glory out of shit so they were trying to film it and basically use us and the camera guy panicked and dropped the camera and it was like, “Punks did $150,000 worth of damage!” Which was of course not the case.
This was all put together by John Belushi who was friends with [Fear vocalist] Lee Ving and brought Fear on, that’s the only reason they were on it.
What did your parents think of all this punk and hardcore stuff and did they support Murphy’s Law?
My mother always did because her father, my grandfather James Fioravante, he was a musician so my mother was the one who really got me into music. She used to go to the [legendary DJ] Alan Freed shows at the Brooklyn Paramount, she was into rock 'n’ roll way before I was around and she always supported me being into music. My grandfather made drums and he had a music studio in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him because he passed away before I was born but I was always intrigued by him and the stories my mother would tell me about him. He made drums and played everything, a really special person. I think my life would be much different if I knew the man but I also think he’d be proud to know all I’ve done making music and not ever being formally trained to make music.
How did you start DJ’ing and working the door at A7?
That was through my neighbor Doug Holland, aka Doug Lazeto from the band Apprehended, and then later on it was Kraut and finally, Cro-Mags. But Doug was the one who got me into a lot of punk rock and got me the gig at A7. Doug and Ray were working there already and they hired me through a reference from those guys. As if you needed references to work in that fuckin’ shithole [laughs]/]. But ya know.
Right, like you brought your resume down there and he vouched for you…
Yeah, they checked my resume! I was 15 and working the door and DJ’ing at an after-hours club til 11 the next morning, it was pretty crazy.
So you actually lugged boxes of records down there all the way from Queens to DJ?
Yeah, there were no CDs then, bro! [Laughs] DJ’ing was actually jockeying discs. You had to carry them on a subway in a backpack and a skateboard and bang it out.
What were some of your favorite bands back then from NYHC scene?
I mean back then, not really New York Hardcore, we didn’t really favor each other, I liked Void, Faith, Scream, a lot of the DC stuff and like Gang Green, SS Decontrol and Circle Jerks and Black Flag, Fear, of course, and a lot of the English punk stuff was what we cut our teeth on. A lot of music, there was a lot of variety of music. Not to sound like a jaded old man but a lot of the stuff that’s coming out as hardcore music, it all sounds the same. Back then, it was a contest of who could out do each other to be different. And now it seems like everyone’s playing follow the leader.
How did Murphy’s Law end up getting signed to Profile Records?
Well, we were initially supposed to sign with Def Jam through Rick Rubin and then that deal popped up with Profile so they came up first for us to sign and we jumped on it. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been bad to have Rick Rubin produce our first record, but it didn’t happen.
That would’ve been pretty cool to hear Rick Rubin producing an actual hardcore band. How did you know him?
Rick and I were friends when he was in college and I messed around with a band he played with called Hose.
Oh, you were in Hose?
For a hot minute. I did a show at CBGB’s with them. I kind of sang [laughs]. That was way before I could put, it’s hard enough to put a sentence together now, that was before I could put a verse and a chorus together.
I was looking through some of my old stuff and I saw that RIP magazine, I believe it was actually Mike Gitter writing the article, called you “The Don Rickles of Hardcore." How do you feel about that?
That’s flattering because I love Don Rickles and I definitely do get away with murder and busting people’s balls just like Don Rickles did. Ya know, Frank Sinatra never killed him and a lot of people haven’t killed me yet, so. I definitely pull people’s chains and people get laughs out of it and I don’t mean any harm by it. We’re definitely from a scene where it’s easy to make fun of a lot of people. But you also gotta be careful now because everyone gets butthurt about shit so easily.
Yeah, you don’t want some dumb beef with people.
Well, people don’t know if they’re boys or girls anymore and everyone gets offended about whatever you say. Sticks and stones right but meanwhile we’ve got fires burning almost whole countries and people eating like, eagles and shit and coming up with new diseases. San Francisco’s basically a rich people’s place or a homeless shelter where people shit in the street but you’ll have people protesting in the street over a word. And the government sits back and they laugh because it makes them stronger and we’re just weak.
It’s the same thing with skin color. Everyone freaks out over black, white, and yellow and you know, we all bleed red and the more we’re separate the stronger they are. It’s just a fucking joke, man. We’re going down fast right now, dude. There’s plastic in 100% of the fish that’s out in the ocean right now, never mind the nuclear waste from Fukushima that’s gonna keep leaking out and definitely for the music scene there’s lots of good material to write about.
People don’t realize, they think Fukishima’s over but it’s not.
No, it’s not and neither is Chernobyl. There’s this thing called the Elephant’s Foot that’s this giant glob that’s basically melting through the floor of what was Chernobyl and once it gets through there it hits the water table and once it hits the water table, between that and Fukishima we’re done. Clean nuclear energy, yeah ok.
I remember when I was a kid, on one hand they’d tell us we could get nuked by the Russians any day but at the same time they said that nuclear energy was the clean, renewable energy.
They can’t charge you for sunshine or wind, that’s why they don’t use that stuff. And the ebb and flow of the tide, they can’t charge us for that either so they don’t use that. There’s technology that powers tons of stuff with that but how do they send you a bill for that?
Let me go back a bit here. I saw you guys with the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy at the Philly Spectrum in ’87, you got any memories from that show?
[Laughs] Nope. That whole thing was a fucking blur of fun. Unfortunately, back then, we weren’t running around with phones in our pockets that make phone calls and movies and stuff otherwise I’d have a lot of great material. We weren’t running around taking pictures or documenting anything. We were far from sober or straight edge kids so we were out getting fucked up and getting laid and having fun and enjoying the experience rather than sitting and documenting anything and you know, “This is gonna be amazing one day! I’ll make a book, I’ll make a movie! I’ll make a movie and a book!”
Nobody was thinking about movies and books and fucking coffee table books back then, we were just living the life and that’s what I’m kinda still doing right now. Everyone’s asking me, "when are you gonna do a book?" And I’m like, "I’m not done!" Books are for when you’re done. How does a book end? “The End” right? I’m about to make a couple more chapters, I’m going to Japan again. At 54.
I don’t know about that, I’ll tell ya after I get off the plane after 17 hours!
I was also watching that NYHC episode of The Phil Donahue Show recently. How did that end up happening?
That was at the time that they were exploiting punk and hardcore and the evolution of hardcore from punk and every show wanted us. And New York magazine did this whole thing with this yellow journalist Peter Blauner. He wrote this whole thing about “Scene Kids” and he came to CB’s and normally we’d throw bottles at you or beat you up if you came to take pictures of us without our permission or anything like that.
But this guy gained our trust and it was supposed to be about our music scene and he turned into a fucking soap opera between me and some girl that was just like a fan of the band and totally made up this whole story and Donahue’s people I guess saw that it was marketable to put on his show and they basically sat all of our scene in the center and then they put all the normal people surrounding us and they thought that was gonna set it off.
That was pretty funny, there was the one old lady who thought you guys were pretty cool that was like, I think you guys are all pretty interesting or whatever.
Yeah, and Phil hated it! So like between commercial breaks and people of course didn’t see this when they watched it, Phil’s people would come up and be like, Oh argue with him, be more confrontational! I was literally like, "fuck you...get outta my fuckin’ face, there’s confrontational." I’m like, people like us why do you want us to start shit? So you can get more ratings? So you know, we won all those people over and they hated it. And after it, my girlfriend at the time, Natalie Jacobson, who’s a very intelligent woman and then was a very intelligent young lady, Phil came back and was like, "oh, wasn’t that great?" and she just tore him a new asshole. It was pretty hilarious.
I also saw her on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from back then, she was great on that too.
Yeah, she was definitely, for her age, was way on point sitting with two journalistic people that basically could manipulate young people but she was the one manipulating them and winning things over.
Who’s that older guy sitting next you on the back of the car in the band pic on the Back with a Bong album back cover?
Who, the bum? That was just a bum dude, because above CB’s there was that men’s shelter. And that was one of the reasons CB’s got closed, because they didn’t pay their rent to that men’s shelter. That was just some guy that was there while we were taking the picture. He came over and normally those guys would be hanging out talking shit with us anyway because they could get a couple bucks from us or a beer ya know. It was also many times we got buckets of piss dumped on us from them and other horrible things.
I remember people yelling out the windows of that place outside of shows there.
Oh dude, forget it! They were just being wackos too. That was the Palace, it was called the Palace Shelter.
Whose car was that?
That was my car. It was a ’74 Chevy Laguna.
You actually drove around with Murphy’s Law painted on it or that was just for the photo?
No, I drove around with it and I got pulled over lots of times. But that was the old days in New York when you could drive around like a maniac and not get harassed and stopped every 5 seconds.
The guys from Fishbone did the horns on that record too, was that from knowing them from that Beastie Boys tour (Fishbone replaced Public Enemy later on on that tour)?
Yeah, that was all from that. We definitely, we all hit it off on that trip and had great times together so through being together on the tour bus for 3 months and being together 24 hours a day we talked about making music together and it definitely happened. It was cool, I wish we could still be able to do a tour together now but I don’t know what’s going on on their end. People would definitely wanna see it.
How did drummer Petey Hines end up leaving you guys for Cro-Mags?
[Laughs] He wanted to go on to bigger and better things he said. And funny enough, right after he did that we got the Beastie Boys tour.
That’s hysterical, well alright good for him. Murphy’s Law and in particular you, never stopped being hardcore when a lot of other people moved on from the scene. Where does this dedication come from?
I mean, this is my life, I don’t know any other way to be. It’s definitely prevented me from getting a wife and kids, so I never went that route. I am who I am and I don’t see myself changing, obviously this isn’t a phase, I’m an idiot for life.
You’re not gonna grow out of it?
There’s no going back, I’m gonna go in the box with the flowers in the NYHC symbol!
I remember one time when I was 14 with a mohawk I was in Bleeker Bob’s with my mom and Bob yelled over to her, “don’t worry it’s a phase, he’ll grow out of it!” which I never did either so…
It’s hard to grow out of what you are ya know? There’s sports people, they watch the stupid fuckin’ Super Bowl, all those fuckin’ old men they’re still football sports guys, we’re hardcore guys. We’re music guys. We’re street guys, and girls. It’s just like, fuckin’ people always try to tag shit on you but you are who you are. You don’t grow out of being conscious of the government being fucked up and conscious of the way food is fucked up with all kinds of horrible shit in it and you know, punk rock definitely wakes you up and once you’re woke it’s hard to step down from being all fucked up for knowing it. You could live in that suburban bliss and be ignorant and sit in your house and work and don’t go out and have a wife and kids and trudge through it and fuckin’ die. Ya know, "Sit Home and Rot."
A friend of mine told me he heard a persistent rumor throughout the '80s that you once got a “Stiv Bators” on stage at CBGB's (if ya know what I mean). Any truth to that rumor?
Oh, I got plenty of blowjobs on stage. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s all part of the job. Carpenters get splinters and rock 'n’ roll guys get blowjobs on stage.
Raven’s been playing with you for along time now. How did you guys meet?
From the Stimulators. Raven played saxophone for the Stimulators. I met him from that and we’ve been friends and brothers ever since.
Back in ’03 I booked Murphy’s Law at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden in Astoria. Do you remember that show?
Oh, that was great. My father was there!
I remember that and you also told me that was the first time Murphy’s Law had played Astoria.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it. There was a famous show that happened at the community center in Ravenswood Projects but that was before I was in Murphy’s Law. I think Agnostic Front and Urban Waste played. That was the 1st time and the best time because they didn’t do stuff like that there (at the Beer Garden), I don’t know why.
Well the Beer Garden was a private eastern European club, primarily Czech but it had pretty recently opened up to the public and it was my local spot at the time so the powers that be knew me and I told them I wanted to book a “high energy rock 'n’ roll show” and they said ok. They had no idea who Murphy’s Law was. I had to type out an official proposal and everything.
So, everything was cool and a go and I had flyers up everywhere, an ad in the Village Voice the whole nine yards and one day I go in there and all the flyers are gone and I was told that Jon, the president of the board, wished to speak to me in his office [laughs]. It was all very much like Soviet Russia even though it was a Czech place. He told me the show was off because they’d been informed that you guys were Nazis that had sex on stage and all sorts of awesome insane shit!
[Laughs] I was not aware of that but that shit would go on all the time. People can either bury themselves, like a lot of people that shall be nameless on social media, or you can cover your own ass and show people who you really are by what you do and people can really get to know you from this. It can either be anger and drowning or it can be the best yacht in the world and it’ll keep you afloat. Which I’ve been lucky with my stupid nickname that people have accepted me and not buried me because of it. But it definitely worked out because that show was fucking great.
Oh totally! I had to do a bit of arguing and convincing and I had to personally guarantee that there’d be no Nazis having sex on stage but it did go on and I even got you guys the keg of beer that Jack Flanagan (who was their manager at the time) demanded.
We polished off that keg in the first couple songs!
It’s a long standing tradition for Murphy’s Law to play in NY on St Paddy’s, Halloween and New Year’s. How did that start?
Well, the band started on New Year’s Eve, so it’s kind of like a no-brainer because what better place to celebrate the holidays than New York City? After a while you don’t even have to promote it that much because everyone knows you’re gonna do it.
You guys did some touring with the '90s Misfits.
Yeah, the Michale Graves era. We did a tour with them when the band bailed on Jerry [Only] in New Orleans.
You were there for that when everybody quit?
Yeah, I was. I saw the whole thing. Jerry was kind of in a spot, which I’ve been in that spot before and [Murphy's Law drummer] Goat who didn’t really know the Misfits stuff very well, just jumped in. And then they had Zoli from Ignite come in and sing for a while which was really cool to see. He did a great job. Michale did too. He’s still got a great following. Those records he did, ya know, he put his all into it and he created his own persona with the scarecrow guy. I’m a Misfits fan from day one and I like what he did.
I was also at the OG Misfits show you guys played in New Jersey and that was fucking great, it was like the biggest hardcore show ever.
I didn’t spend much time on stage, unfortunately, but we had a good time.
Did that happen from you knowing Jerry?
Through all that and Glenn [Danzig] actually requested us to play. Those guys are all my friends and it was like a no brainier. They wanted to bring in their friends who’ve been around for a long time. They brought in Harley [Flanagan], they brought in me. They definitely picked all the right opening bands for them and it was great.
Right. I get in arguments with people about this stuff all the time [laughs], people hating on Danzig and the Misfits, etc. and I’m like, "you don’t realize it was them that picked the openers?" They never forgot where they came from, it wasn’t fucking LiveNation that decided Murphy’s Law was gonna play…
People don’t know the guy, people are so fucking judgmental. From the scene that’s supposed to be so open minded, people are very close minded. While they’re sitting in their parents’ basement or sitting there waiting for their wife to cook them dinner, they’re sitting mocking Glenn Danzig who makes more money than them and has lived a crazier life than them. They’re sitting there trying to be punk judges and they’re far from it.
I just say to those people if they’re reading this, are you getting a million dollars to scream on stage? No. What’d you get a million dollars to do? Did you ever get a million dollars? What’s your fucking job paying? The guy goes around with his two fucking friends dressed like monsters and makes a ton of money everywhere he goes.
What’s next for Murphy’s Law, are you gonna do a new album?
We’ve got half of an album done, like written. We have an album pretty much good to go but we’re not gonna do the typical move like we would normally do with like the reggae and ska stuff, we’re gonna do a separate ska record called Skatastrophe and a hardcore punk record. And the kids that like that shit they can buy that record and the kids who like the hardcore punk shit they can buy our other record. And the kids that like both, I’ll sell twice as many records.
What’s the hardcore record gonna be called?
We don’t know yet. Medicated is one idea. We had Dedicated, so we’re looking to do Medicated. And that’s the first anyone’s head of that, so there ya go!
You heard it here first, kids!
You heard it here first, baby.
Do you still stand by the motto: "Take the sound of beer and the sound of BBQ, squish ‘em together and press it on vinyl…that’s Murphy’s Law"?
Pretty much and that’s what we’re gonna do on this record. It’s great to see vinyl outlive CDs and it’s also great to see how digital media has become such a good thing for bands to be able to put music out.
Ok, well thanks a lot, Jimmy!
You too, pal. I really appreciate it.