I first heard Pillsbury Hardcore when I was about 15 years old. I was already into metal and thrash, and getting more and more into hardcore and punk. The cover of their In a Straight Edge Limbo EP was confusing and attractive to young me. Straight edge and the Pillsbury Doughboy? I’m in.
I had never heard anything like it and I loved what I was hearing. A few years after that I was in Our Music Center on Staten Island and I picked up Pissed Playground by Pissed Happy Children. The LP opened with “Ready to Fight” by Negative Approach and from there just blew my mind. I still maintain that “Mister Magoo’s Revenge” has the hardest Mosh part ever.
Fast forward some decades later and I have become friends with their guitar player, Shawn Connell.
Shawn is a smart and funny guy who is a dedicated family man and just so happens to have a sick record collection as well!
With the recent release of Black Claw Records' Pillsbury Hardcore's Ghosts of Straight Edge Past discography, I thought it would be cool to have Shawn tell us his story. Read on, reader.
Let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from, and how was it growing up there?
Yeah, so my family was originally from the Chicago area. My folks settled down temporarily in Joliet, Illinois, you know, the Blues Brothers? Yeah, like that. We lived outside of town like on the edge of a cornfield in a very small neighborhood.
It was a lower middle income kind of area you know. There was always food on the table but nobody was going to buy a Cadillac, Ford only. Looking back it was quite quintessential.
We were there for a while then off to Wheaton, Illinois for about a year while my dad had a home built in St. Charles, Illinois. That was cool, nothing but farms, ponds, BB guns, Space 1999 toys, and Schwinn bikes to enjoy. This is where I first had access to music.
My brother (Joel) somehow got my very conservative dad to buy him KISS Destroyer LP and a few other hard rock titles. That along with the local kids spinning Foreigner, Journey, and stuff like that got my interest in music going.
Fast forward to 1978, my dad landed a chance to move up the company ladder at AT&T and so off we went, leaving everything behind us to land in Claremont, California, the eventual home of the “The Headquarters."
This was quite the cultural change. Kids were a bit rough, rude (I thought) and it was sort of a dog eat dog feeling I got moving into a middle class elementary school.
Was music a big part of your upbringing?
Not until me and my brother decided to do it. I mean, my dad said he had tons of 45s growing up and we even had a family turntable but by the time we were kids, somehow that was sidelined.
My dad said his collection was huge as well as his extensive comic book collection which was all put out to the trash while he and my mom were on their honeymoon. My grandmother in her best wisdom felt that stuff was no longer something he should need to keep (including the Superman #1 comic book….*cries*).
Give us an idea of your musical timeline; what got you into music and how did your tastes evolve over the years?
Going back to like 1977, I was eight years old, I recall listening to the radio and some of the hard rock LPs my brother had, but it wasn’t until I was in Claremont and had access to Rhino Records did I feel an irresistible impulse to go in and begin to sort through the vinyl and tapes. That was about 1980.
I recall digging in the 7 inch box they had near the cash register. I suppose they put it there for fear of punks running off with five-finger discounts, you know ….“how low can a punk get”?
I distinctly recall the following EPs: UKs The Defects, Black Flag Nervous Breakdown, Six Pack, Devo EPs, Dead Kennedys, Crass, Killing Joke, The Cars.
Every time I made it back to Rhino, the first thing I did was thumb through the 7 inches. I think from that first experience I became more interested in or more attracted to collecting 7 inches over 12 inches.
Getting back to the question, I had a short two or three year exposure to radio, followed by rock, new wave then pretty much into early punk (Adam and the Ants, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Oingo Boingo, etc.).
By the time we had the following records in the house the punk and hardcore punk reclassification indoctrination was complete: Punk and Disorderly compilation LP, Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation, Black Flag Nervous Breakdown, Flex Your Head compilation, Battalion of Saints 12 inch EP, Dead Kennedys Holiday in Cambodia, etc. That would have been 1981, 1982, I was in the 7th grade about to go into 8th grade.
I was so in fixated with this music, it was hard to like or explore any other music style; I was totally sold out, especially when I identified the straight edge movement from Washington, DC that really got my full interest.
The Southern California/Orange County/NYHC version of straight edge bands were fine for me. I do like some of it but nothing compared to the Dischord, Fountain of Youth, Sammich, and DSI Records sort of releases did.
In other words, living in Southern California meant my musical influence compass was pointing due east for the most part. Would also be fair to say I thought a lot of the early UK punk was phenomenal: Rudimentary Peni, Flux of Pink Indians, Killing Joke, etc. Really tremendous stuff.
It wasn’t until about 1983 as a freshman in High School when my proximity to Toxic Shock Records (Pomona), meant my immediate introduction to some of the classic NYHC EPs. You already know what I’m going to say: Agnostic Front United Blood, Antidote Thou Shall Not Kill, Cause For Alarm, Kraut, Urban Waste, The Abused, The Misguided, and Beastie Boys.
These kind of records my pals and I snatched up fresh, hot off the presses, thanks to our friend Bill Tuck (also of Pillsbury Hardcore). Bill worked at Toxic along with Bob Durkee and Bill Sassenberger (owner and also vocalist of Peace Corpse).
You’ve played in bands with your brother Joel. Is he older or younger? Did he have any influence on your tastes growing up?
Joel is a couple years older than I am. Of course that meant I was constantly scanning him for things to evaluate. He for sure was into music ahead of me, at least by a couple years.
He and I share many similar likes, such as Government Issue and the Bad Brains, but he also was into many things I thought were distasteful at the time (about mid-'80s) which I now like a lot, such as early Cure, Chameleons UK, Gary Numan, etc.
Let’s go through your band history. Were you in any bands before Pillsbury Hardcore?
Pillsbury Hardcore was my first band. I was already in the band and had not a clue what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to be in the scene more than just a fan/participant; I wanted to make the music as well.
How did Pillsbury Hardcore come about?
Yeah, I’ll try not to butcher this. Bill Tuck has a more formed view as he noted in the liners to the Pillsbury CDR semi-official, bootleg, but the short of the story is we were some hardcore punk guys going to parties and being sick of the drunks and mentality of “punk self-annihilation” wanted to so something in response… we had a pal named Pat, he was lovingly nicknamed the Pillsbury Doughboy….yeah sweet, short and chubby, fun.
We used his nickname to make up “Pillsbury Hardcore." The band was formed in the summer of 1984, and we quickly got to recording demos, live shows, etc. The first formal lineup was Bill Tuck (vocals), Joel Connell (drums), Bob Durkee (guitar), and I played bass.
Yeah, it was a joke garage band but before anyone casts an opinion I’ll say this, we were having a blast. I am uncertain many bands had as good of a time as we did and we knew it was not great music by label industry standards. We were cohesively chaotic and fun loving and so were the small number of fans we had.
The Poppin Fresh demo was recorded in November 1984, then finished in December of that year after Eric Wood (aka Kook) joined sometime in late November, or early December I believe.
To be sure, I had no music training whatsoever, I was learning as I went. I mean everything from tuning the bass or guitar to borrowing equipment and getting pointers from whoever was patient enough to give me some time.
Wood brought some real musicianship to the band. My brother had played about a year so in a band called B.D.T. (Bad Display of Talent) with my friend Frosty, most notably known for his guitar work in Chain of Strength. “Frost” has been a good friend since Junio High School; yeah I got many stories…perhaps some other time we can get to that.
So back to my brother, he and Wood were the musical backbone of the band in my opinion. The other members were getting up to or trying to get up to speed with them. Bill’s vocals were great and he loved the stage and a fun time. I miss the 5 piece lineup, it was incredibly fun.
You know what, we even opened for Anthrax on their Spreading the Disease Tour in 1985 at the famous Pomona Valley Auditorium. Heavy phucking metal, bro! Corrosion of Conformity played too…nice!
Oh hey funny story about that. So, I was at the show and got set up, Bill was so nervous he was puking his brains out, meanwhile Scott Ian from Anthrax kept going back into his dressing room, every few minutes he comes out with a mint condition band shirt. Misfits, Black Flag, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Agnostic Front, etc.
I think in total I saw him change like 6 times before he landed on the right shirt for the show, and I was like what is this guy doing and why? [Laughs] Who knows?
Did you know Eric Wood prior to playing in the band with him?
I had not met Wood prior to him joining the band. I knew he was in Peace Corpse and I had seen him play a couple of times. As I mentioned previously, Wood brought real musicianship, without his addition I do not believe the band would have survived past 1985. The timing was right and some form of musical evolution was critically needed.
Did you consider yourselves a straight edge band? Your sound, aesthetic and lyrics were pretty atypical for that subgenre at the time, in a good way.
Yep for sure, it was a straight edge band. That was what we were about, “flexing our head” and all that even if we did odd things like tossed Pillsbury biscuits and candy out to the audience to have them come back at us half consumed.
From my perspective, the punk scene was primarily catering to very serious topics, political/social commentary, war, sexism, racism, you know. Pillsbury was the antidote to that serious tension, or at least a brief departure, a comic relief if you will. It was time to lighten up, and we were not the only ones doing tomfoolery, AOD, for example.
Pillsbury Hardcore was not known for being straight edge because not all of the members Xed up and did all the jumping around and had the approved straight edge uniform, hoodie and high-top sneakers, etc. We had one primary song, “Pot is Lame,” that straight edge kids might associate with.
Other than that song we had our infamous "S.E.V.F.P." song: S (Straight) E(edge) V (Vegetarian) F(Fascist) P(Pig).
The lyrics go, “I’m a straight edge, I’m veggie, I am not a Fascist Pig…”
The song addressed some of the bands and fans at that time who seemed to be pushing/preaching the straight edge and vegetarian ideals a bit too aggressively, and that was something we were not about. Pillsbury Hardcore wanted to know if you were interested in checking out our record collection…
For the time, we didn’t get on many straight edge bills, although we did play with some notable bands such as 7 Seconds, Youth of Today, Half Off, Dag Nasty, and Soul Side… all of those bands claimed edge, I suppose. Who knows?
What did Pillsbury Hardcore release?
So we did a few tapes, I’ll cover those first. Bob had a reel-to-reel tape recorder (1/2 inch) and a small 4 or 8-track mixer I believe, he was frequently experimenting with recording shows and doing demos on a shoestring budget.
The first tape was Poppin’ Fresh (1984), followed by Live 85 (1985), Bakers Dozen (1987, sold on the tour only). We also were on some compilation tapes, the I Love Pomona (1985) with lots of cool Pomona Valley hardcore bands. We recorded anywhere, friend’s garage, band room, at shows, wherever we could.
For 7 inches, we did a few as well. The first and most recognized would be the In a Straight Edge Limbo EP. This one was recorded in July of 1985 at Casbah Studios in Fullerton California. The engineer and studio owner was Chaz Ramirez.
Chaz was well known for recording some major punk releases including Mommy’s Little Monster by Social Distortion, Adolescents, and Decry. Chaz also played bass in the legendary punk act from LA named Eddie and the Subtitles.
In that same recording several more songs were completed. Three songs made their way onto the Pillsbury Hardcore Horror Snores EP in the Budget Ranch box set which included two other 7 inches, one from Peace Corpse and another from White -n- Hairy.
The Pillsbury Hardcore songs included; "Horror Snores," "Sasquatch," and "Punk Rock." The "Punk Rock" song was a replication of the song “Miniature Golf” by McDonalds on the Touch and Go Records, Process of Elimination compilation EP from 1981.
The last three songs were included on the Empty Skulls 12 inch compilation that came out in 1986. Those songs were, "Kill Everyone Now," "I Hate Paper Cuts," and "S.E.V.F. P."
A couple of live tracks were included on the infamous End the Warzone 7 inch compilation on One Step Ahead Records with some cool bands like Larm, Attitude Adjustment and Straight Ahead. That came out in 1986 and since the two original pressings were completed that year, has been bootlegged to death.
Most recently, I completed a compilation of the two EPs and the tracks off the Empty Skulls comp, to form the Pillsbury Hardcore Ghosts of Straight Edge Past compilation LP, with my wife Tina on our Black Claw Records label. It turned out nice.
My buddy Fred Hammer (It's Alive Fanzine) showed me how to get this stuff done and how it’s important to have a good production and lots of extras in the package. So we went about making quality colored vinyl, tons of inserts, stickers and the best jacket we could afford.
A bit surprising, all 500 records sold out in like two days. I was deeply humbled by that response and still am actually.
Did Pillsbury Hardcore play a lot of shows?
The Pillsbury Hardcore band did play fairly often, although at first most were at homes, parties or whatever, although it was not too long before we got some steady shows and even the occasional big show, like the one in 1986, at Fenders Ballroom with UK Subs, BL'AST!, Bad Religion, and Dissension. I recall being pretty excited about that one.
I also recall being let down a few times. One example was when we had a bill at Rajis in Los Angeles, I think it was a school night and mind you, I was 14 at the time; we get to the show, TSOL was on the bill, I think?
Anyway, we get in the club and start to set up, all of a sudden, the owner comes up to me and starts giving me grief. The band members intervene, turns out it’s an 18 and older show and I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We didn’t play that night because of me despite our promise that as soon as we were done, I was out the door.
On the Pillsbury Hardcore compilation I mentioned earlier we made a few inserts that show a handful of shows we played.
Many of our shows were at the legendary 12XU club which was a small retail space in the old Pomona mall down off of first street next to Toxic Shock Records retail store. The space was originally used by Toxic as a warehouse but later was released due to lack of need. I think Bill (Toxic) sublet it out to Bob Durkee and many shows happened in that space.
Often two or more shows happened in a week, sometimes on a school night too. It was like 5 bucks to get in and 12XU hosted bands like Agnostic Front (you can see the video on YouTube), Toxic Reasons, Raw Power, DRI, etc.
I think Pillsbury played 12XU club about 5 or 6 times and it also was our rehearsal space. There's a picture of us playing in 12XU is on the back of the In a Straight Edge Limbo EP.
Pissed Happy Children didn’t get too many shows. At that time there seemed to be this thing where the same bands were always on the bills, I won’t name names as not to offend the innocent, but it was disgusting to be honest. I mean how many times shall we see the same bands over and over?
The few times Pissed Happy Children played in Orange County, the fans just didn’t respond to us, in fact, and as others have commented outside of my opinion, P/H\C seemed to be in an awkward place, perhaps ahead of its time? Not in the right city or near the right kind of music fans? Who knows, but I can say for sure that one of our slogans was, “don’t let bands die for lack of support," that is how we felt.
After completing about 14 shows over about 1.8 years (3 were at Gilman), Wood and Joel succumbed to the lack of interest and decided to venture off to do more progressive things, … enter in Cyclops, which was in 1989.
As you may know their first EP was, The Second Son of Poseidon, then they did Cradle of Man’s Mistakes, before determining that band was also not the final frontier. That was a hard time for me, Pissed Happy Children was my favorite band to play in and the Vigilante EP was a really cherished release, as was Pissed Playground LP.
Both efforts were completed on New Beginning Records, which was run by Billy Rubin of Half Off/Haywire and Mike Tushon. Other New Beginning releases included the famous Underdog EP and Crippled Youth’s Join the Fight.
How did Pillsbury Hardcore evolve into Pissed Happy Children?
Pillsbury Hardcore was a fun band to be in. A key member was Bill Tuck; he and the other four members made a great band to be in. In the summer of 1986, we were in Wireworks Studio with Rusty, our engineer. The recording was going well, but something was amiss. Bill seemed to be struggling with the vocal style, doing some experimenting and we saw some friction in other areas as well.
Tommy Stupid from the band The Stupids was in town and he had made a couple visits to the studio. He was a good ole chap and occasionally didn’t make the best companion, he was a bit of a smart ass. I’m not entirely clear on the details but just as it seemed we were finished with the music and it was time to complete the vocals, something occurred, and emotions erupted.
Stupid and Bill clashed and a moment later Bill was out the door. We stood there in disbelief not knowing what to do next. In my opinion, that moment really seemed like the end of Pillsbury Hardcore as I knew it, everything after that seemed a bit laborious and occasionally awkward.
Nevertheless, we carried on.
Bob Durkee, Wood, and I finished the vocals, about 6 or 7 songs, and a tape was made and sold on the Heavy Phuckin Tour in July 1987. The tour completed about 10 to 12 shows, ending somewhere around Virginia when Joel got pneumonia or bronchitis and we had to hurry back to California.
About 30 hours of driving and we were in Claremont. I think I lost like 15 pounds on that trip, eating mostly room temperature Spaghetti O’s out of the can. Some time passed before Joel was well and then we were back in the band room.
Meanwhile, Joel, Wood, and I had been talking about how the grit and power of the band was not where we wanted it to be and we all sensed a considerable creative riff between us three and Bob; it was therefore time to end Pillsbury Hardcore and do something new.
Around September 1987, the band assembled to rehearse and all of a sudden, unplanned, it seemed like the right time to make a decision as to what to do. I then informed Bob that it was over. A couple weeks later Wood, Joel and I decided to make a new band.
Historically confusing and occasionally debated, Pillsbury Hardcore and Pissed Happy Children are or were two completely separate bands.
Some of the songs that Wood, Joel and I wrote inside Pillsbury towards the end made it into the Pissed Happy Children set list so we could almost instantaneously get to playing live and we did. Not only did we get right to playing, but we almost immediately began recording a full album.
The recording began in late 1987, and thanks to Wood, he secured a working relationship with Billy Rubin and Mike Tuchon of New Beginning Records and got the LP production planning underway. I will pause here and say Wood is effectively one of the hardest working persons in our music scene, I mean just look at all the stuff he has done with these bands, it is phenomenal, and he and Joel too I should say are some of only a few people that really go to incredible lengths to ensure a final product is of the highest possible quality.
Back to the question, Pillsbury Hardcore had about four writing phases: garage, hardcore, post-hardcore, then back into hardcore writing. It was getting back to angry or wild hardcore that we wanted most. No compromises, no debating, effortless writing and full commitment to what we were doing.
With everyone on the same page, and it was those sort of things, which we lacked in the latter phase of Pillsbury Hardcore. That is why we needed to form Pissed Happy Children.
No one sounded like Pissed Happy Children. How was it writing that material and playing alongside Wood with his insane bass playing? What would you say were the bands biggest influences?
We didn’t want to sound like anyone else (nor did Pillsbury Hardcore), we already had about 50 or more bands at that time that were blatantly copycat, unashamed. The P/H\C writing was roughly shared 50/50 between Wood and me, and he of course was completely responsible for all the bass lines/leads.
As you can imagine he would add the bass scales and sounds as it worked perfectly into the song, I rarely if ever needed to give him ideas on how the music should sound. Joel always knew what to play, again effortless.
The lyrics and styling, topics and whatnot was also shared between all of us, although Wood wrote the majority. We had a great time making up songs about toys, candy, fighting, and other fictitious madness.
Not sure, what were some of the biggest influences, Wood and Joel listened to things like Rush, and progressive rock, jazz fusion besides punk and hardcore. We met musically on things like Negative Approach, Necros, and Die Kreuzen.
For the record, we never sought to imitate anyone, and I think it shows in the music. We did cover Negative Approach’s “Ready to Fight." That cover song was first played in '85 with Pillsbury Hardcore, and yes we kept playing it in P/H\C.
What did Pissed Happy Children release, and did the band play out often?
P/H\C released the Pissed Playground Demo around March 1998, which effectively was a sound board tape of the LP that came out on New Beginning Records in 1988 with a basic mix, but unmastered.
The Vigilante EP was recorded in January of '89, and released shortly thereafter. We also had a track called, “Graveyard at Sea," which was put out on Earth Rapers and Hell Raisers compilation on HippyCore Records, this came out in 1989 as well.
The final P/H\C record would be the Slap A Ham #1 split live flexi, with our pals Infest. That was in 1990, then again in 2000 in blue and black vinyl as a 7 inch. P/H\C only recorded at Spot Studios with Dave Kory. Dave was great to work with.
Do you think there will ever be any chance of those Pillsbury Hardcore and P/H/C records being reissued?
There were a few P/H\C songs, about 4 or 5 that we did which never were recorded at Spot. Some of these captured from a Gilman Street sound board tape might be on our upcoming double LP (P/H\C Full Discography) on Deep Six Records sometime later this year, hopefully. The planning of this record is exciting, only 1000 will be pressed on colored vinyl, so grab one if you can.
As I mentioned previously, the Ghosts of Straight Edge Past came out in December 2020 and was out of print in a matter of days. Perhaps a repress later this year, we will see. As for other things, it has been rumored yet again that Bob Durkee and his Fartblossom Records would release the 1986, Baker’s Dozen this year. Time will tell.
Let’s talk about your bands from the '90s: End to End and Process. They were quite a departure from what you were doing before. Want to give us the rundown on those bands?
Sure, so after Wood and Joel stepped down from P/H\C I was left wondering what to do. I cannot recall how much time had passed, perhaps a couple months at most, and then Jon Roa— formerly of Justice League—and my friend from High School, Erik Egan, who were playing in a recently formed band called, Addiction, approached me.
They had some issues with their guitarist so they asked me if I would be willing to join them. The format was straight-forward hardcore, straight edge hardcore and so I gave it a go.
We played as, Addiction for 6 months, completing 6 or 7 shows, one was at Spank’s with Inside Out and Reason to Believe; this was before we renamed the band, End to End.
End to End lasted about six more months, six or seven shows later and a few songs had been completed at Spot Recording Studio in Orange County where all of the P/H\C had been recording.
The plan was to complete a full-length End to End LP. We were able to get three songs done when a tape was sent to Porcell of Schism Records to review. Apparently, he liked it and Judge asked Roa if End to End would join Judge on an East Coast tour, so this was in 1990.
Since we were all in school, and Bryan our drummer was still in High School the idea of dropping out to do this was out of the question. The frustration of not being able to complete the Judge tour ultimately caused Roa to quit End to End.
That brings us to Process...
Yeah, from there Bryan, Erik, and I formed the band Process. and that lasted several years, I left the band in June of 1994 after graduating college. Over 3 years, we completed two LPs, and a 7 inch on Conversion Records.
A few songs made it onto various compilations, one landed on Trustkill’s first record, an Embrace tribute LP to benefit the homeless called Land of Greed... World of Need.
I was also in a short-lived band called Jolt with Erik I mentioned earlier and Frosty of Chain of Strength. This was during my time with P/H\C; we played about 3 shows and used a Gilman Street soundboard tape as our demo. I played drums in Jolt.
Was your time in Charred Remains before, during or after those bands?
So, for Charred Remains, yeah, that was an interesting thing that happened. I got a call from Wood and he wanted me to join up for a recording and join them full time. He and my brother had cemented 5 songs and wanted to get something completed for a record. The Cyclops effort was over and they were looking to do something more brutal. With some reluctance I agreed.
Effectively, I showed up to the Claremont Packing House rehearsal space and there was my brother, Wood and the sound engineer. Wood went about showing me the songs; we would then rehearse them a few times then record it. Do that 4 more times and that was it. I believe it was in 1991.
I was already overly committed to my college studies and to Process. I could not recklessly accept their generous offer to get the three of us back together. Besides, I was in San Diego and they were in Claremont, there was no possible way I could keep up with Wood’s rehearsal regimen.
I would have been let go anyway if I tried, not for the desire to do it but I would not have had the time and would have eventually become a boat anchor.
I am proud of that afternoon I spent working on the Charred Remains recording for the split EP with Pink Turds in Space; that was the second Slap A Ham effort I was on.
From that moment in 1991, I supported Charred Remains/MITB as often as I was able. I helped them with stage work, driving and photography several times.
Did you do anything else musically after those bands?
When Process was done for me (June '94) that was about it. I had an opportunity to do a band with my former bandmate in End to End, Jon Roa, back in 2010. Our rehearsals were in LA, which was quite a haul for me from Ventura, but when the bass player Ted, formerly of Justice League moved the rehearsals much farther, that was it for me. I think in total I wrote about six songs for that band, but I don’t think anything became of it.
My Process band also got together for fun once or twice I believe around that time in consideration for playing a few shows for fun. It was amazing, you know, we got into the band room after a decade and a half of not playing and just did it, seamlessly, effortlessly.
You have an insane record collection. What are your Top 5 from your collection and what are your top wants?
[Laughs] I figured you’d ask me something like this. Dang, dude, Top 5, man that’s hard.
Ok, I am going to rate this on an emotional connection only, not street value or for sake of rarity:
SSD, The Kids Will Have Their Say LP
Minor Threat, Filler EP
Scream, Still Screaming LP
The Faith, Subject to Change EP
Government Issue, Make an Effort EP
Ok, Top 5 wants might be:
Minor Threat, Filler EP (Red)
Minor Threat, Filler EP (Yellow)
The Fix, Vengeance EP
Toxic Reasons, Ghost Town EP
Poison Idea, Pick Your King (1st press)
Are there any recent bands you’ve discovered that you are really into?
My brother has always been a big influence on the things I’ve listened to. This past year or two I’ve picked up several Gary Numan LPs, the Cure, and some other post punk UK stuff I like a lot. Though it rarely pumps me up, it's great music to chill out to at night. Turn down the lights, put on the HiFi.
After a hard stress filled day, can be nice to help me relax. No Bolt Thrower, please. That is clean out the garage music, mostly.
Do you still play at all?
The last time I performed (sadly) was in 1994 after I graduated college. I felt it was time to give music a break and quite honestly from my experience it seemed like the more I tried and put energy into bands, the less I got back.
I realize this isn’t uncommon for people who have attempted to do bands, but for me I had education, no money and a chance to get something going career wise. So I stepped away from the band Process. It was a hard call, Brian Boss (he is a tremendously talented drummer btw) also exited Process then; he later joined Man Will Surrender and I think he did quite well with that group.
Are you working on any new projects?
Glad you asked. I’ve been sidelined for many years for a number of reasons and that is over with now. I cannot say for sure if it is going to be a project or a working band, but when I ended Pillsbury Hardcore and Wood, Joel and I were ready to do something new we had to name the new band.
We decided to keep the initials PHC, the Pissed Happy Children came to exist. My current project which is forming includes just two people: Joel and I. The name will likely be the runner name we came up with for Pissed Happy Children: Pilgrim Hate Choir.
I had hoped to get a Pilgrim Hate Choir (P-H-C) tape out in 2020 but for competing responsibilities and COVID crisis, that didn’t pan out, especially when my focus turned to making records. The name of the band sort of speaks to the hatred people have for those on a spiritual journey. The “Choir” being society. Too heavy? I dunno.. maybe?
My current hope is to put out at least one tape or EP in 2021. My brother and I have all the equipment needed to record. He is totally excited to do it too, so that’s rad.
For this band, I will do everything but percussions. Joel might do some backup vocals. Looking at the current riffs made, I bet this one will be something like Pissed Happy Children but with some additional power violence styling.
What kind of gear do you have now?
Ok for gear stuff, let’s see. I have a black 1990 Les Paul Studio, non-OG reissue Dan Armstrong (clear), 150 watt Line 6 amp, standard Marshall 4x12, Line 6 4x12 cabinet, Marshall 100W JMC 2003 head and a variety of digital and analog petals and junk. Peavey EQ and Avid eleven rack set up. I also have a 50W Fender bass cab, and a Dean Bass. I also have a Martian acoustic guitar.
My HiFi gear includes a 1980 Japanese receiver, turntable and some sweet 1977 Infinity floor speakers. I have a nice pile of old stereo stuff in the garage too, I have yet to get into it and see how much can be salvaged, and restored.
For some reason I keep finding old stereo equipment put out to the trash and I cannot see it go without trying to see if it can be saved.
What do you do outside of music?
Outside of music is 90% or more of my life now. It includes being happily married to the woman of my dreams, Tina. Tina and I were married in 2017 and together have a blended family, three wonderful kids: Jake (17), Liam (13) and Maggie (11).
We live in Ventura, California and Sugarland, Texas part time. Running two homes, traveling and having very full-time jobs is a lot to bear. We really just enjoy spending time together as a family.
About what I do for a career, I trained as a Molecular Biologist, but currently serve a very large clinical reference laboratory as the Regional Quality Director. Other hobbies include working on old VWs, landscaping, gardening, motorcycles and hunting for old treasures at swap meets and thrift stores, garage sales, eBay wherever.
I love to fix things and hate the idea that anything worth saving might end up in the landfill. We go to the beach often for sea glass or shell picking, sunsets or camping.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I wanted to take a moment and thank all the people I have come to know through Instagram who have given me so much support, who bought the Pillsbury LP and are actively encouraging us to do more (such as yourself, Mike).
Tina and I have really loved bringing that record into reality and hope to make a few more this year and the next. Thank you again for your support and thank you in advance for considering other releases we hope to make.
We promise to do our very best to exceed your expectations as lovers of the vinyl music format.
Thanks for doing this!
Hey Mike, you are the best dude ever, I appreciate the interest in some of these old things that I had the pleasure of witnessing and attending to. I would welcome people to reach out to me on Instagram (@_straight_edge_punk) and/or (@blackclawrecords) to continue the conversation.
I can also be reached at [email protected]. Thank you.
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