Interview with Nicholas Adel of HARDTIME
You feel that hardcore music has been watered down in the recent years since it was introduced to the mainstream. And much of the appeal it had in the old school era has been lost. Can you elaborate on your personal view?
Let me start by saying that I love hardcore in many different forms. The fact that hardcore has become more mainstream has made it that more exciting. You're always getting the opportunity to meet new people that maybe at one point would not have been a part of the scene. This allows the opportunity for so much more exposure as a band. I love all of our fans. The downside is that hardcore has become a general term. All you need is a frontman with an attitude and a breakdown. It seems like real lyrical content is a dying art, and song structure has become watered down with whoever can be toughest while playing an open note, sludgy breakdown. Hundreds of bands are pumping out this shit and actually getting signed! It seems like because hardcore HAS become mainstream and "cool", people don't recognize the roots of the music and the journey the genre has taken. One of my favorite bands of all time is a Massachusetts band named Piecemeal. They released an album called Somewhere Between Crucifixion And Resurrection Lies Redemption (1997 Wonderdrug Records). The lyrics were very well thought out, very angry, straight edge angst, (I can appreciate it, even though I have never been edge) and the music composition was incredible! I would recommend that album to everyone. It blew me away.
How long have you seen this trend hardcore has taken in which any band can be signed and its roots are being brushed aside?
Who doesn’t like a good breakdown? I know I do. It seems like within the last decade bands have taken this to the extreme, writing whole albums that feel like one long breakdown. Slamcore. It’s awesome to see kids going crazy at shows, but in my opinion, the real content seems to be lacking for an album. But, it is selling tickets and making money! Labels are scooping these bands up by the handful. I understand that a record label is a business; like any business, they need to make money to exist. It seems like there was a large group of popular bands that seem to make a crossover, I hate to say “selling out”, but morphing into something they weren’t. For instance, bands like Poison The Well, Eighteen Visions, and Throwdown. Earth Crisis even attempted to do it with the release of the album Slither. They changed their style, look, and content and became more marketable. It was great for the labels. A new fan base was born. They started selling out larger venues and selling more albums. It’s a win for the record industry, but the hardcore we all grew up with started changing. On a positive note it did bring more attention to hardcore in general.
Financial issues aside, do you still consider the actual work as important as making a living from it? Granted bands can make it on their own terms and become accessible without “selling out” but does a certain amount of integrity still count for something?
The actual work of course is more important. If you’re a touring hardcore band, you’re lucky to come home with money in your pocket. It’s obvious that any full blooded musician out there would love to make a living at it, but they don’t expect to get rich. Sure, everyone has a dream or a goal to make it big someday and fill an arena of screaming fans. If your only purpose as a band is to write pop music and become a star, that’s great. To me that’s creating and following a business model, not working as a musician. Granted, some bands get that kind of recognition because they are that talented, but that doesn’t happen overnight. As a hardcore band, that kind of status is difficult in general. As a band if you can accomplish the goal of becoming iconic while keeping your musical integrity, you will always be respected and remembered.
Bands such as Black Flag, Bad Brains and Ramones to name a few generated cult followings that lasted decades after their albums were released. Even if they never broke into the mainstream they have new generations of fans discovering them to this day. Would you say this is success of another kind?
It’s funny you bring this up. I just saw a commercial promoting U2’s new album on ITunes launching for free. In the ad they were trying to show the history of rock or some shit, not sure. The funny thing is they show Black Flag and the Ramones a few times. Bands of this type broke that barrier. A lot of the Ramones songs may quite possibly be the easiest to play, but catchy as fuck. Black Flag is awesome! Even without the band, Henry Rollins has to be the coolest front man ever. They were the pioneers of what we have today. It doesn’t matter if you like their actual music. If it was not for these iconic bands, we might not have bands like Madball, Death Before Dishonor, or Rude Awakening. Any band that lasts decades after they are producing music is something massive. You have to remember too, the production quality on a lot of these older albums were nothing impressive. Kids can still get into these bands without the overproduced vocals, guitars, and triggered drums. That’s pretty cool in itself.
I know what you mean about that absence of overproduction. Many classic punk and hardcore albums (not to mention thrash albums) sound primitive by today’s standards but they have that spark that more often than not is missing these days. Do any albums speak to you in such a manner? Sheer Terror’s Just Can’t Hate Enough is one I that comes to my mind.
In 2001 a band with members from Massachusetts and Connecticut called Hamartia released one album called “To Play The Part”. It’s gritty, and very real. The vocals rule. It’s an incredible album. Funny story about Hamartia: two of the members Brendan MacDonald and Mark Castillo started a side project called Bury Your Dead. I guess I don’t need to explain why Hamartia didn’t last long.
The tour documentary Another State Of Mind which was released back in 1982 showed how hardcore bands (Youth Brigade and Social Distortion) could arrange their own national tours with no label backing and make it a relative success, even if there was no money made. This was when hardcore was just starting to catch on in the States. The doc went a long way toward squashing misinformation about the genre in general. Do you think it’s possible for bands to do so today?
I think it is possible to do a national tour, but you’re paying out of pocket. No label backing is really hard today, unless you have some really good connections. The difference today is that without a label, and a guarantee, it’s hard to get enough to get recognition, with club owners to get paid. Clubs know how hardcore and punk shows work. Unless your band is going to pull in enough people to buy drinks or pack the club to pay for damages, they don’t want to take the chance. That’s why we love Elks Club shows, VFW shows, the promoter CAN make money, and the bands MAY make money. I may be wrong’ is there a band out there still unsigned making money using social media? I think maybe for a period of time, but a label will snatch them up quick.
What is your definition of real lyrical content? What can bands do to ensure the roots of hardcore are remembered today?
Real lyrical content is whatever speaks to you as a fan. It’s not the same for everyone. For me, even if I don’t hold the same views or stance on a subject, it’s the passion put behind it. As I had already mentioned I am not straight edge, but I love a lot of straight edge bands because they live, practice, and write about things that are real to them. It shows on their albums and even more so on stage. They can be some angry motherfuckers! I love it. A great band with a message is Refused. They were extremely politically driven and so fucking angry! They may not be for everyone, but you can’t deny their talent and their defined political stance. Hardcore isn’t the same as it was when Cro-Mags entered the scene, or when phenomenal fucking bands like Tree and Sam Black Church were killing it. Even with the changes seen in Hardcore music, nobody has forgotten about them. Cro-Mags are still killing it! Madball, Biohazard, Agnostic Front, and so many more are all still out there doing their thing. Earth Crisis brought it back with “To The Death” in 2009. Everything changes; it would be boring if it didn’t. Nobody will ever forget the roots of hardcore. I would like to think we’re all creating new roots that honor and respect where we came from.
From where does the band Refused come? What can you say of their political stance and what motivates them?
Refused come from Umea, Finland. A lot of people probably don’t consider them hardcore. They are angry, loud, and incredibly fucking talented. They are another band that broke a huge barrier. Believe it or not they actually played live on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. Some of the members were in an earlier band named Final Exit, check them out too. A lot of Refused lyrics are very anti-government; they definitely sway very far to the left on politics. They have a song “Rather Be Dead”. The opening line says it all: “Rather be dead, than alive by your oppression, rather be dead, than alive by your design”.
In what way do Refused’s lyrics speak to you in Rather Be Dead and their other songs?
It’s angry anti-establishment at its best. I have never lived in Finland, but I think we can all agree that politicians, government, police brutality, or whatever is your personal feeling of the system oppressing you makes for great fucking music. I know our government is corrupt. Finland or not, it’s all the same.
How much easier is it now for hardcore supporters to connect with one another since mainstream exposure has given them a greater number of opportunities? How much exposure has Hardtime gotten because of this?
There are more shows, more bands, and now social media. Mainstream exposure has helped every band and fan out there. Shows are being thrown in the backwoods of Maine and a couple hundred kids will come out. With more bands and more exposure to new fans networking for bands is obviously easier. Social media is a great way to advertise your band. Show off some music, sell merchandise, pretty much every advantage that bands in the 80’s, and a lot of the 90’s didn’t have. The best advertisement for your band is still, and always will be, your live performance. With that being said, Social media allows the impact your band created at their last show to have a ripple effect, spread the buzz a lot quicker. The fans are able to spread your name and share upcoming shows that much quicker. We take networking seriously. We always try to stay and support all the bands at shows and meet as many new people as possible. Before you know it, you’re connected with bands, agents, labels and fans across the country. It just continues to grow and grow.
Where do you see internet radio playing a role in the internet and social networking nowadays?
Internet radio is incredible. It has helped every genre of music. Type in your favorite band or pick a genre and your world is opened up to bands that you would have never heard otherwise. Type in Slipknot, you may end up hearing some Cannibal Corpse, or Gorerotted. Listening to Jay Z, you may end up hearing some old bad ass Tribe Called Quest. Listening to Earth Crisis, you’ll hear everything from old Integrity to new up and coming bands. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to spread a band’s name. It isn’t as commercialized yet as regular radio became decades ago.
So with more people attending shows in areas that might not have been as active beforehand, you would say that hardcore in the US has become even stronger?
That’s a tough question to answer. I don’t know the facts or numbers, record sales, or have some fancy graph to show you the rise and fall of the particular genre. I would say the last decade has been interesting for hardcore. Hardcore was obviously extremely strong in the late 80’s into the mid 90’s. The later part of the 90’s it still existed, but didn’t have the same notoriety. I would say with the rise in popularity of heavier music in the early 00’s meant the tides were about to change again. I don’t want to admit it, but the Warped Tour did a lot for hardcore. Bringing hardcore bands to the bill obviously brought a lot of exposure to the genre. As it stands now, I think hardcore is standing on two strong legs again. I think the advantage that the 80’s and 90’s didn’t have that gives us the upper hand is social media.
With all the advancement hardcore has received since the internet and social media, is there still a place for print fanzines and fliers? Some thought that webzines might replace print zines but there are still people who would prefer holding a zine to read it rather than scour the internet. Do you prefer either or are both acceptable to you and the band?
I’m 30, my drummer is 34 going on 40, and the rest of our band is in their early 20’s. I understand that everything is moving digital. Call me old school, but I like the newspaper in print format. I have yet to finish a book on my Kindle; it has to be a physical book. There is no logical reason for it. I prefer everything in print. Our younger bandmates, I can’t answer for, but I can say I don’t believe they remember a time when the internet didn’t exist. I can be absolutely positive they don’t remember before most everyone had a computer. My guess is that they’re on board with anything digital.
Many people still prefer vinyl even though there is so much digital stuff circulating around. It’s been thirty years and vinyl still hasn’t died out. Do you think there will always be a need for something physical no matter how “modern” things become?
I love buying the physical copy of an album. You get the jacket, artwork, and continued collection. I miss the days of going to a store full of music. I would spend hours just looking through shit. I think the need will disappear entirely, but the novelty of being able to collect something physical from your favorite band will always be available. I think every musician understands that something physical is important, even if it’s just for the novelty.
Where does the hardcore scene in New Hampshire fit with the mainstream exposure hardcore has gotten across the country? Since the band formed, how familiar have you become in other states besides your hometown?
New Hampshire is awesome. We always get love and support from our hometown. The big picture? New Hampshire is a very small state, small population, and very few cities. A lot of things take time to get here. National touring bands don’t always consider stopping here. In New Hampshire, you have to look at the bigger picture. New England is our scene. It’s just a few hours to Providence Rhode Island, Portland Maine, Boston Massachusetts. As a band we constantly play all over New England. The great state of New York has welcomed us with open arms. We’ve been playing a ton of shows all over New York.
What are your most vivid memories of attending hardcore shows in your local scene, back in the day?
I’ll get picked on for this one. I didn’t happen that long ago, but this is my favorite memory. If I remember correctly, around 2003, I got to see Hopesfall for their “Satellite Years” tour in San Francisco California. If you’ve ever heard the song “End Of An Era”, you’ve heard some good shit. The place exploded when they played that song, still gives me shivers. Their next album was horrid and disappointing.
Which hardcore bands were the first you listened to when you discovered the genre? Did you discover these bands on your own or did friends introduce you to them? The very first hardcore bands I was introduced to that I vividly remember were Integrity, and Bad Luck 13. “Bats On The Dance Floor” was an awesome album. Of course there was Earth Crisis and All out War. I have a friend, an older brother, Timothy Murphy. He was my connection to the hardcore world.
Are there any fanzines and record labels that exist locally in New England that are worth a mention or two? Do you personally prefer reading webzines or reading physical print zines?
For sure, Arrest Records and FDR Records are two that have a huge influence on our local scene. They push a lot of great music around here. I prefer reading the physical print in any form.
In what New York venues has the band been performing of late? Are fans in New York and New England equally supportive of hardcore shows, bands and printed fanzines etc?
New York shows… we have been playing quite a few bars and venues on and off the beaten path. I couldn’t even list half of them off the top of my head. We’ve had quite a few in Brooklyn, Long Island a few times, really all over the place. Our boys, great dudes, at To The Point Records get us great shows all over New York. New York always has had and always will have a great scene. Boston is right there with them. New England as a whole is incredibly supportive. Fans will drive from Rhode Island to Maine to see a show. I would say New England is right up there.
In New York we lost several clubs, namely CBGB and Coney Island High where bands could play and build a fanbase though we still have old and new venues supporting bands. How are things club-wise in New England? Are there clubs in Providence, Portland and Boston in particular where you liked playing?
We have a lot of great venues in New England. There’s Anchors Up in Massachusetts, The Kave in Maine, Firehouse 13 in Rhode Island. They are all extremely great clubs. I have to say my favorite venue style in general is an Elks Club, VFW show, or some local promoter busting his ass to put on a great fucking show in a random space. I think I can answer for the band; the Vet Center in Windham, Maine is always an incredible show. Kids go fucking insane! Last show we played I ended up smashed and wounded by a mic stand during a breakdown on our very last song for the night. Chairs were everywhere, absolute mayhem. We like the gritty DIY shows. Always the best time!
Have you ever gotten to see a show or perform at CBGB? How much of a loss to hardcore was the club’s eviction? If you saw the movie that was recently released about the club, do you have a personal opinion of it?
I never had the pleasure. It’s a shitty fucking feeling that I never got a chance to see such an iconic establishment in person. Everything surrounding the eviction and close is bullshit. We all know Kristal got FUCKED! I know there are quite a few collections you can see of things that were once part of the club, but it’s not the same. The history and impact of the CBGB on music is and always will be amazing. The way it ended is a wound that the music industry will carry for a while. Everyone will still have memories, recordings, videos, and pictures. The history of the CBGB will last for fucking ever. Have not had a chance to see the movie, but will have too very soon.
What bands have shared the stage with you during your most memorable shows of late?
In my musical career? In no particular order, Agnostic Front was a huge one, Gang Green, Full Blown Chaos, Cruel Hand, Rude Awakening, and Murphy’s law. That’s off the top of my head. Agnostic Front and Full Blown Chaos were with my previous band. But it has been a great ride, a lot of great bands.
How long has the band known the people at To The Point Records? How dedicated are they to hardcore?
Within the last year we have grown real close to the staff and a lot of the bands on the label. Jay and Jesse are the main dudes up there in Brooklyn. They try to get us on almost any show they can. They are the best, nicest group of people you can deal with. They have a wide array of music. They’ve got Apparition, Sicker than most, Psycho Enhancer, a wide array of music. My favorite, big shout out to NO FUCKING CHANCE! We Love Matty and the whole clan.
How long has the band been familiar with Piecemeal? What speaks to you about the lyrics on Somewhere Between Crucifixion And Resurrection Lies Redemption? How many other albums do they have out?
My drummer Shaun used to play shows with them in one of his old bands As I Bleed. Unfortunately they only put out the one album (and repeat songs on a split with Die My Will). He has always liked the album. It’s always been one of my favorites. As I had mentioned they were a straight edge band. I couldn’t relate to that message, but his general style of writing, conviction, and delivery are one of my favorites to this day.
Straight edge is a term I haven’t heard in a while. Is it still a major part of hardcore as it was in the 80s? Are there straight edge bands that formed recently that you like and would recommend? What is your general view toward straight edge?
Straight edge is a term that I think will always be associated with hardcore. I’m not exactly sure why? Maybe it’s because it was such a trend at one point. I have a lot of respect for anyone who chooses to live that lifestyle. I don’t myself, not for any particular reason. I honestly couldn’t name one straightedge band off the top of my head. I know a bunch of bands that are a mix. My band for instance, our lead singer Jake is straight edge. He doesn’t preach about it, write about it, or really talk about it. It’s a personal choice. I feel that if you choose to indulge in anything it’s your choice. Once it hurts your loved ones, or takes priority over family or friends, you’re a piece of shit.
How important do you consider lyrics in hardcore? How does Hardtime go about figuring out subject matter and writing lyrics?
Lyrics serve a purpose. They are meant to work with the music and get the vocalist’s idea out. Sometimes it’s about something serious, sometimes it’s not. Whatever the vocalist is writing, content is important. Lyrics about fighting and violence just to come across as a tough band are boring. Lyrics about how hardcore you are are the worst. Those are the bands that come and go quickly. All of Hardtime’s lyrics are written by our singer Jake. He has things to say. Check it out! He has a unique style and we’re lucky to have him. Some of our stuff is a little deeper, some of it is fun. Jake’s voice and his lyrics are his instrument. We all work together writing a song, bringing things to the table. That’s Jake’s part, and he does a damn good job.
Can you recite some of Jake’s lyrics and explain how those lyrics resonate with you?
We like to leave that to our fans. I will say Jake is a very talented writer, he has some incredible lyrics. They can be personal to him, but he writes in a way that he likes people to take away what it means to them. I will say if you listen to “Sell Out”, those are my favorite lyrics. I like to think that it may mean there’s no escaping death, an end of any existence, and fuck those liars who tell you otherwise. I am definitely an atheist, that’s the message I take away from it.
How about quoting a handful of lines from Sell Out? Explain the reason those lyrics are your personal favorites?
Misguided youth, blinded from the truth
This lie is all that there is
look into my eyes I'll show you the lies
they've been teaching our kids
if there was a god I'd spit on his face
for making what has come of me
I'll never forget, I'll never forgive
I'll never bow down on my fucking knees
you can't break me down
I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness believe it or not. It was never my thing. My family and friends within the religion literally disowned me. That’s when I started to understand, in full, the hypocrisy of that fucking organization. DISCLAIMER: Jake did not write these lyrics with any of this in mind!!!!! TO ME, I like to think of this as a Fuck You to all of them and every religious fanatic.
How long has your Sell Out single been available to the public? What feedback has it received since it came out?
Since late summer. It has been awesome; the proof is at the shows. People go bat shit crazy from beginning to end.
In 2013 Hardtime released a four song EP entitled Justified. List the songs appearing on this and what they mean to the band?
Justified, Street talk, Body Rot/Locked up, and Exile. They are four great songs that got us to where we are as a band. As things usually go, the older songs get phased out as you grow as a band. So far Street Talk is the only song we don’t typically play. I personally hope to bring in back soon.
Describe some of your personal views about religion and explain how they are reflected in Hardtime’s lyrics.
I believe that people are scared of death. They are so scared that they need to believe in an all-powerful god, or father, that will comfort them and save them. They need to believe that there is more once you die. Organized religious denominations take advantage of this. They steal their money, and their will to live life to the full. The idea of god, heaven, and hell, is a way to control the masses by using fear.
I think we all get one chance to make our mark on this planet. Live your life to the fullest every day and love your friends and family. Appreciate every second you have. Once you die you’re taking an eternal dirt nap. God is not up there wasting his fucking time watching our every move. We control our own fate. Fuck organized religion and fuck the corrupt bastards that take advantage of the lost. Live your life like it’s your last day; the ride comes to an end. Jake has his own beliefs, and writes all the lyrics. If you look close enough, you may see we have some parallels, but my religious views have no impact on Hardtime’s lyrics.
Religion is often used as a weapon as you described. Do you think fans who have had similar experiences as those you have had can relate to Hardtime’s lyrics on that level?
Jake didn’t have the same experience I had. I think I take some of his lyrics as a “fuck you” to religion because that’s what I want to believe. A lot of his stuff has nothing to do with god or religion. I think angry music, with an angry message, can be easily related to anyone who is pissed off at any organization. Religion is a weapon, and I fight back towards the corrupt motherfuckers any chance I get.
Your split EP with Waste Of Life was released this past year. How did Hardtime and Waste Of Life arrange to release it together? Provide information about where the bands recorded and who helped out during the sessions?
We’ve known Justin the lead singer for quite some time. To prove my point earlier about how small New England is they live in RI we are in NH and ME. He’s a good friend and they are a great group of guys. The idea for a split came up because their music is the shit, and we were itching to get into the studio. We both recorded separately, at separate studios. We liked the idea of both bands finding their own production sound. Hardtime recorded with Dean Baltulonis at Wild Arctic Studios, Waste of Life recorded with Ryan Stack at Format Audio. Justin, the lead singer of Waste of life took care of the rest from the artwork to the final physical cd and packaging. Justin Rocky Davis Flores, you’re the fucking man.
Is the band currently seeking label deals to distribute your material on a wider scale? Did you come across any deals the band can work with?
We have a serious deal available on the table. If we sign, yes, we are getting one of the better deals any indie label can offer. We can’t say any names, but also we can’t wait to announce it! Expect a full length in the spring of 2015 released with the help of an incredible label.
How do you intend to promote the new full length once it is officially released? Does Hardtime have additional plans for the future?
The label we are looking at working with are talking videos, physical ads, and song plays on quite a few of the popular internet radios like Pandora, and Spotify. Other than that get out there and play some fucking shows. Future plans? WORK! Our plans are to keep pumping this shit out! Play everywhere! We plan on being around for a long time.
Lineup at the time of this interview:
Tyler Ouellette-lead guitar
Andrew Rice-rhythm guitar
Nicholas Adel has since left Hardtime. The band is seeking a new bassist.