Interview with musician DAMIAN PANITZ
How long have you been a musician, and what made you decide to pursue playing in bands as a full time career?
My earliest memories of my musical desires started when I was really young way back in the mid 70's. I have always loved hard and loud rock and roll music. I became a Kiss fan at the age of six. Although I was an Ace fan and dressed up as him every Halloween I took drum lessons because we had one of those cheap paper head kiddie kits in my Elmhurst Queens basement.
At eight I got ahold of a family members Silvertone guitar and amp combo. I didn't take lessons however I loved going over to my friend Frankie's house to rock out. Frankie had one of these Neil Peart kind of kits and was a couple of years older than me. Soon we had a band, a band of neighborhood kids who were all metal heads. Some of us (me) were getting into Thrash and Black Metal while the other kids were getting into Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads. For me Black Sabbath was from the Gods and easy listening.
One afternoon we realized we had a big band... a big band of guitarists, a singer and a drummer. We needed a bass player. My twelfth birthday was weeks away and I volunteered since Randy and Yngwe were too... (not sure if goofy is a good word. I just wasn't interested in imitating them. Honestly my need to collaborate with singer-songwriters has been a part of me since the beginning)... so I volunteered to play bass.
I hitched up with a bass teacher by the name of Roberto Trumpeo. Holy shit was this man the greatest. Although he was nearly twenty years older than me we became friends. I traded lessons for carrying his gear to gigs. Roberto turned me on to all kinds of music; Cream, Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, The Doors, Iron Maiden were among some of his favorite bands to play so he taught me entire album by album the ways of these bass players. He would even teach me the stuff I loved like Venom and Slayer. I remember him wincing at the prospect of helping to try and figure out the bass lines from Celtic Frost.
I can't say for sure if I ever tried to evaluate why I decided to play music full time. I believe music decided to pursue me and in turn I just pursued it. At one point I thought I had given up playing music (from 1999-ish to 2006-ish) and moved on to sound design for film and TV however, that just got me hooked to recording and designing sound. Whether listening to music, playing music or and or recording music; music and I are forever.
I am one of the biggest tech gear heads I know. I love every micrometer of it. From perfecting a note bend to building guitar pickups, microphones and entire recording rigs I am addicted to sound.
There is a fantastic feeling collaboration creates. You hang out and tweak, drink a beer and tweak some more. Throw around ideas, fight and bicker. When it comes to performing your labor of love there is no greater high. That’s what keeps me coming. That’s why I wake up in the morning.
Astronauts spend a great portion of their lives training on earth only to spend a handful days in a tin can between here and the moon. That’s who I am, a musical astronaut having fun training to get my short lived high on a stage with my crew or through a recording.
How long have I been a musician you ask? Way before I put my feet on earth’s soil. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. I believe I came in on the universe's vibrations.
I discovered Kiss at approximately the same age and I too was an Ace fan. Were you disappointed when he left the band?
Oh man I was ever so crushed! I bet the farm the band would fall apart. How could anyone top the man from outer space's guitar playing? For a while I looked for him in his own band reincarnation but that hadn't materialized until I was an adult.
Were you a fan of Rush when you started playing drums at your friend’s home? How long was it before you started a band?
No, not at all. Rush was a hard sell at first. No teen in Queens liked Rush. It was AC/DC, Venom, Slayer, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Ozzy was on a comeback with Blizzard Of Ozz, Diary Of A Madman and Bark At The Moon when I was an early teen. When I played drums I was real young and I liked bands like REO Speedwagon, The Rolling Stones, Kiss and AC/DC. I loved AC/DC, and still do (Bon Scott era). I have to admit AC/DC is still top of my charts. I’ll never tire of albums like Let There Be Rock (my first AC/DC purchase), Powerage, Highway To Hell and High Voltage. I am sad about Malcolm and his continued health in decline.
Rush came into play at around when I was twelve years old; the time I began to take bass lesson with Roberto Trumpeo. Trumpeo would trade a Venom or Slayer tune for a Rush or Cream tune; Welcome To Hell for Closer To The Heart and Evil Has No Boundaries for I Feel Free. It was a wonderful contrast and really opened my mind to Rock and Roll (metal being in that genre). We explored Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, early Metallica (Cliff Burton’s Metallica), Bathory and so much more.
My first band was with my friend and fellow neighborhood music junky, Frankie. I was probably ten or eleven years old. We would cover Ozzy tunes and write our own stuff. We had so much fun cranking the amps all the way. Frankie's mother would come down the basement stairs screaming. Frustrated because we would couldn't hear her with her arms flailing in the air like fish struggling for oxygen. By the time we noticed her she would be exhausted and panting "you little fucking bastards! If I have to come down here again... it's all going to be over! You got that Panitz! And you!!!! Frankie!! Am I clear?” We had so much fun. In those days we would dream of being on tour, gathering girls up with our rock n' roll-ness, endless fun and stardom.
Bass was the right instrument for me to choose, actually I think it chose me and not the other way. I loved playing the bass. Not only did it and I hold things together it seemed that me and my instrument were in demand. I began to bounce around from band to band. By the time I was fifteen years old I joined bands that played all the East Village bars and clubs. I played CBGB, The Village Underground, The Continental Divide (now known as the Continental which serves cheap shots to college kids and no live music), the basement of King Tuts Wha Wha Hut (now known as The Niagara) and more. One of my favorite bands I played with in those days was a band known as Toxic Waste. Toxic was a cross over punk, hardcore band. By that time I was doing horribly in high school. I was drinking way too much and things began to blur. Thankfully I pulled it back together within in a year or so. I owe that to Roberto Trumpeo.
My first AC/DC album was For Those About To Rock (We Salute You). To this day I credit it as having been a major influence on what I would go on to listen to, up there with Elvis, the Beatles and Kiss. What are your thoughts on that album?
For Those About To Rock in my mind was end of AC/DC's peak. They went from recording amazing end to end records to a couple of great tracks followed by maybe one or two neat tunes. Flick, Fly, Blow Up, Razor, Ballbreaker, Stiff, Ice and Rock or Bust sound to me like core band members getting together from far off places to do something they love and or are contracted to do. I think in (this is pure speculation... I am most likely wrong) AC/DC's case they found a formula and stuck with it. During Bon's tenure they had a sound but they explored a bit. Just listen to TNT/High Voltage, Dirty Deeds, Let There Be Rock, Powerage and Highway. All completely different records. At Back in Black the formula was cemented in. Back in Black was a fantastic record. I could see why a band would stick with a "working formula" after they reach their apex.
For me the major turning point happened in 1982. A radio station known as WAPP ran a summer promotion they were commercial free all summer. Neighborhood kids were measured by the size of their boom box. One summer afternoon my friend Joey Gonzalez and I were hanging out on my parents stoops on Van Loon Street. An older kid (he was approximately seventeen years old) took a turn on my corner. He was the kid our parents told us to avoid. As he got closer to us we got nervous. Instead of continuing on his journey he stopped in front of us. We shit our pants! What's Gabriel going to do to us? I held on to my boom box.
Gabriel: You kids like Rock n' Roll?
Us (in frightened unison): Yeah.
Gabriel: Take this. I'll be back tomorrow to get it.
It was AC/DC's Let There Be Rock cassette. I'll never forget how cool the album cover looked. Angus on stage like a God in front of his green handed zombie like fans, a sensation all young musicians thrive for; power from an Excaliburesque electric guitar! The clouds above opening up to illuminate Angus from above. And just behind the band backing up this legendary swordsman with magical powers.
My radio had auto reverse. We damn near wore that function out that day. Over and over we played it. Every song on the album blew my head off. It was the boogie of the bad boy. It even had a song titled "Bad Boy Boogie!" Marvelous! The entire cassette seemed to spell out my past, present and future with tracks titled Go Down, Dog Eat Dog, Let There Be Rock, Bad Boy Boogie, Overdose, Hell Ain't A Bad Place to Be and a Whole Lotta Rosie. Every song seemed specifically written for me. It was the early 80's. I played in a band, I was getting in trouble and my parents sucked. Brings out the devil in me... Hell ain't a bad place to be. Bon was singing about life. He drew from experience. A rock n' roll experience.
The next day like clockwork Gabriel returned.
Gabriel: So whudya kids think?
Me: Holy cow!!! I loved it!!!
Gabriel: Gimme that one and take this one.
The album was High Voltage. From here you can assemble our reaction and see how that little fire in me grew to an inferno. All I wanted to do from that point forward was ROCK! I could give two shits about anything else. For the next couple of days we repeated the AC/DC public library system.
Now that I am somewhat older and have a lot more musical experience I can say what makes AC/DC's Bon Scott era special is its organic feel and sound. Bon didn't sing about crap he thought the audiences wanted he sung about stuff audiences wanted to emulate. Quite possibly the Steven Jobs of Rock Blues. And that's what AC/DC was a Rock n' Roll Blues band. He was indeed a Blues musician. That’s where the soul in the band came from.
By the time Bon died the band was a huge success. I have nothing against Brian Johnson. He's amazing. I've seen him with the band at least 30 times. I simply feel he became part of a formulaic wheel that sometimes comes with successful bands and artists. From Back in Black it was a slow downhill movement to Okay stuff.
For Those About to Rock. Great title! Amazing song!!! But it kind of goes downhill from the title track (this is just my opinion). The tracks: Put The Finger On You, Let's Get it Up, Inject The Venom, Snowballed, Evil Walks, Breaking the Rules, Night of the Long Knives and Spellbound are predictable and lack an organic feel. My second favorite song on that album after For Those About to Rock is C.O.D.
What was your experience discovering thrash metal like? For me it was hearing Venom’s Black Metal for the first time. I was mindblown and to this day I can listen without getting tired of it. What was your first album and what kept you wanting to hear more?
I discovered Thrash Metal at the QP Market place in Long Island City, Queens. There was a music vendor there that had access to everything metal for a kid interested in exploring heavy music. Every week I would go there with my father. He would dump me at the music shop and I would spend hours looking at the album covers (an activity the digital age has nearly murdered into extinction). I think my first Thrash record was Metallica's Whiplash EP. It was 1984. I was thirteen years old and I identified with the music!
Every week I would return to QP's to buy something else. VoiVod, Executioner, Metallica, Megadeth, Venom, Slayer... the list is incredible. This vendor was the gate keeper. I would go to Sam Goody’s and other record vendors around Queens and Manhattan but no shop came close. The band that really stuck to me was Venom. I had the Black Metal back patch for my denim jack and shirts all from the Market Place. I believe Welcome To Hell and Manitou picture disk were my first black metal records. But I have to admit it was Metallica's Whiplash that turned me on to the whole scene.
Is the QP Market still around today or has it since closed its doors?
QP Market place closed down before the 90's. I can't say for sure when but it was awful. It was probably one of the only things I did that was fun with my father.
I guess I was an atypical RNR kid (or perhaps not) for two reasons: my mother seemed to like Ozzy, AC/DC, Rush and Slayer etc while I attended high school, and despite what the other kids assumed by my appearance I was a gifted student who graduated high school at the top of his class, which led me to getting an academic college scholarship. Are there many metal fans you know of who don’t fit the stereotype of metal fans as no-good mindless hooligans?
Being that I had crappy parents, a shitbird jock/bully for a brother and very little supervision and support I didn't fare well in High School. It was boring. It offered nothing other than a place to meet friends and keep warm in the winter. I did super on my state tests, I had stellar attendance but I found classes droll. I mostly slept, snuck out to smoke with friends and talked about bands, my folks were too busy for me to help with homework. If they did spend time with me for homework it was an awful experience. My father would yell at me and make me feel stupid. My mother was pretty much the same. Both my parents were heavy handed.
My grandmother (who I was very close to) said to me. The reason why your parents are such shitheads to you is because your father was born that way. He's just a shithead simple as that. Your mother never wanted kids. So after your brother was born she gave up on you. I’ll take of you and your momma's boy brother can stay with Joani.
Many of my metal head friends went on to do well. Many of them opened their own companies in various fields, some died and some just exist by holding onto threads. I think I am the only academic from my childhood clan. It's hard to say. I moved to Florida in 1990 and lost touch with many of my old friends. It was in Florida I decided to go to school.
My first three or four years there I worked as an auto mechanic. I worked my way up from oil change boy to breaks and onto engine rebuilds. It was a very hot South Florida August day. The air was still and soggy. It smelled like burned oil and musky sweat in the shop. I had a car on a lift. A radio announcer announced that Jerry Garcia died. Black oil poured down my arm passed my armpit and all down my side. I said, "fuck this I am going back to school and I am going to study photography." I had enough credits from taking night courses at the local community college where I could go to the local university and get a BA in two years. It was an awesome decision. I fell in love with school. Got my BA, went on to an MFA in Film and Photography. Went to business school and currently I am studying iOS/SWIFT programming.
Were you also taking music classes when attending college, or was music something you pursued strictly on your own?
My grandmother talked me into going to college. High School was awful for me. I had a lot of fun and did okay, however Forest Hills High School seemed hell bent on kicking "my kind" out, "The Metal Head." One by one the officials found something silly to expel most of my friends. I don't know how Leo Bakman of Immortal Suffering made it to graduation. Some of us had actual issues at home and could've used the help. But Forest Hills High was more interested in having the clean cut model student. Some of those clean cut kids were all fucked up on freebase and bazooka (early forms of crack). I was addicted to Metal records and the bass guitar.
By the time I finished High School, school was not appealing. I was thrilled to get out and stay out. My grandmother would say "Damian they could take you cars, your homes and your bank account but they can't take your mind." Of course I would joke about brainwashing and head trauma. After a year of floating around, experimenting with psychedelics, drinking beer and rocking out I folded and went to college for her. I excitedly enrolled in music theory and keyboard harmony at Queensboro College. What a fucking horror story! Both classes had these geriatric age prune faced schleps who just had their bloodied rulers taken from them because of some new law born of student physical abuse. Dr. Pichota and Dr. Austin. They even collaborated on the same textbook. It was awful having the same terrible text for both horrifying classes. It nearly stole the love of music and performance away from me. So I joined the QCC radio station, popped more acid, chomped on mushrooms and partied. I didn't sign up for classes at QCC again. I did however make some wonderful friends and enjoyed breaking the jazz format prescribed by the radio station with Thrash and Black Metal.
How did you meet Roberto Trumpeo and what were your experiences like taking bass lessons from him?
Roberto and I remained tight friends for many years. I roadied for his band and he would occasionally give me a friendly lecture about drinking. He would say while smoking a monster joint, "Damian, watch your drink. Alcohol becomes problematic over time. Smoke weed instead. Have you ever heard of someone crashing a car or getting into a fist fight while smoking pot?" Trumpet's teachings about life and music I hold dear even to this day. He taught me so much. He taught me how to play like Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire and Jack Bruce. He taught me about music gear and to stay away from the cheap bullshit at the music stores. He talked me out of buying a BC Rich Warlock bass guitar and into buying a G&L L2000e bass that I still have and use, although the frets and the finish are nearly gone. Man do I wish I could hang out with Roberto. In 1990 I moved to Florida to catch up with my family who had moved there four years earlier. I lost contact with him. I've searched everywhere for him. If I could see him today I would thank him for everything I am today. I also owe a lot in similar ways to my uncle Dibbs. Dibbs is an old East Villager. He has a store front apartment on Ave B and 10th Street. I would cut out of high school hang out with him. We even watched the Tompkins Square riots from his street level apartment.
As Trumpeo opened your mind by introducing you to classic rock bands, do you feel you opened his by introducing him to thrash and hardcore music? Because after all it does require talent to be able to play like Slayer and Agnostic Front.
I think Trumpeo enjoyed my energy just as much as he enjoyed turning me on to more music. Introducing him to the various forms of metal gave him an edge in dexterity and being able to teach a broader range of music to students. I don't think he went out and bought a Death Angel record. One of the things he said to me was "if anything, this music is giving me awesome chops." He said that while he was teaching Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden.
What equipment are you currently using to record and perform live with?
Over the years I've collected some wonderful gear. My latest phase in gear-lust are 500 series modules. I love DIY kits for several reasons. For starters they are satisfying to build. I love geeking out with my soldering iron. It's also nice to save a little cash. There's this guy on web Peterson Goodwyn who has a wonderful site: http://www.diyrecordingequipment.com. He explains things eloquently and has links to all kinds of killer DIY studio gear. He's also a really nice guy.
I don't have the space for a full out console so my stuff is either in a rack or 500 series module. I have collection of various Mic Pre Amps and DI inserts by Neve, Chandler, Manley Labs, API, Golden Age, Warm Audio and a bunch more. I have been a heavy Pro Tools user since the late 90's. I have a collection of microphones I made from kits and from scratch along with a few really nice store bought mics.
I was introduced to Pro Tools at a film studio in midtown Manhattan. I worked for a team called 701 Sound in the Brill Building on 49th Street and Broadway. Ira Spiegel and Mariusz Glabinski were two of the most awe inspiring sound editors and I was their sound effects monkey. Late in the evening I would load various sound effects from CD libraries. If my memory serves me correctly they were working on Ken Burns' documentary series New York. It was quite and thrill and an honor. Shortly after another editor hired me as his assistant and that’s when I really began to learn the software. Richard Q. King is one of my greatest heroes. He's kind of a hot headed sweetheart. Richard knew all there was to know about Pro Tools and I am glad I worked with him for as long as I did.
For live performances I use a lot of configurations because I play both bass and guitar. As far as guitars goes I am currently in love with my Stratocaster Highway One HSS. I bought the thing in 2008 and used it maybe six or seven times. I almost sold it once thinking I would never use. I tried swapping the stock pickups out for Seymour Duncan's but that was just an okay upgrade. About a year ago I read articles on hand wound pickups. I was like "meh, how can you beat a machine made pickup?" Boy was I wrong! Because I love tinkering with electronics I saved and bought the gear needed to wind a pickup.
Before my first pickup build I asked a few guitar playing friends to tell me about their dream pickup. First one was my high school friend Morgan Giles. He and I played in our high school rock band. Morgan was an Eddie Van Halen freak! He said he has been looking for a humbucking pickup to rival the EVH pickup he has in his guitar. So I went to work and studied a bunch of formulas and I came up with what I call my Super 7114 Humbucker. I didn't have anything to compare it to so I just sent it to Morgan. I couldn't believe his response. He said I "nailed the exact sound he was looking for!" Another friend of mine who writes blogs for Guitar Player Magazine said he wanted a standard "PAF with a little more warmth." So I came up with what I call the 5050 formula. This was nerve wracking, Ron Zabrocki really knows his shit; if I failed him my name would be mud. Ron took his guitar to a local shop had it professionally installed into his favorite Ibanez. He sent me an email and said "The pickup replaced another sweet custom pickup. We put it in the bridge of this Ibanez I love. And sounded really good. You should be proud of yourself it reminded almost exactly of a PAF I have. An original real one. Had it since the 60's." What an amazing feeling I got.
Back to my favorite guitar, sorry for the digression. I really liked what Morgan had to say about the Super 7114 and so I built another one for my Strat. I built that and a pair of hot but super clean single coil pickups for it. After installing all three pickups I was floored! I loved the way it sounded. I had now five different sounds in that guitar that ranged from Uber Metal to a killer funk Squawnk to an SRV-ish heavy bell sound.
On stage I had two main axes prior to my Strats new life. I used 2002 Gibson SG Angus Young for some songs and Gibson 1960 Classic and occasionally I would use my Deluxe Tele. It depended on the song and the sound I needed. My favorite overdrive pedal was made by my dear friend Jon Steel. Jonny has a pedal he makes over on 7th Street in the East Village. He calls it the Blackstone Appliances MosFet Overdrive. I've used a boatload of pedals in my day but nothing compares to Jonny's OD. While recording and on stage I love using stereo amps which leads me to my other favorite pedal, the Moog MuRf 105. I’ll hook it to my favorite two amps a Fender Blues Deluxe and A Vox AC15.
As far as bass gear goes my favorite all time bass is my 1981 G&L L2000 series E which I've owned since 1986. I had to retire that bass. Her frets are beginning to flatten out and I want to use her on special occasions. I often use a Rickenbacker 4003 an American Standard Fender Precision and a Fender 64' American Vintage Jazz bass. I've loved David Eden amps since the mid 90's (not certain if they are made anymore). A side note about the Precision bass. I recently hand wound a set of pickups for that bass and I thought it sounded great with the standard pickups! Choosing a bass to use for me is dependent on my mood. Each are different in their way but so are my moods. More often than any I choose the Rickenbacker for her growl. That’s one guitar I will leave stock forever.
What do you remember of the Tompkins Square riots from what you saw from your uncle’s apartment?
Ahh the Tompkins Square Riots, or as I saw it The Giant Police Raid of Tompkins Square. The Raid was a huge police slam down on the park. It was the introduction of gentrification and an easy way to rid the park of the homeless and the junkies. My uncle has a store front apartment on Avenue B and 10th Street. The store recessed about four feet in and was protected by a security gate that folded like an accordion. One night he and I were sitting on what we called the "patio" drinking beers on a hot August night in 1988. I had a nice buzz going when I heard a bunch of commotion. In those days commotion was the norm but this was way different. Suddenly a chopper came out from nowhere and its search lights passed my eyes blinding me for a second or two. People and police were fighting, yelling and throwing things. My uncle and I sat with our jaws dropped. Someone was brutally slammed against the gate by police sending us back. My uncle yelled "get the fuck out of here." A cop demanded we open up the gate. My uncle refused and yelled "get the fuck out of here you asshole! This is my home! Fuck off!" The cop banged on the gate with baton and threatened to break our heads open. We threw our beer cans at the gate and yelled fuck off and go away (beer splashed on the angry cop). Another cop came up and we now had two cops demanding we open up. My uncle demanded to see their sergeant. After a little arguing a sergeant came and my uncle explained that this was his home and they had no right to demand that we open up. He showed his driver’s license and a bill with name and address on it and they left us alone.
All night the fighting continued with crowds of people coming instead of going. There was blood and lots of trash everywhere. I’ll never forget the sound of the helicopters and the sight of one landing in the park. The police horses trampling people and all the chaos.
The next morning was quiet. All kinds of litter and various debris all over the street and the park entrances were gated up. It was a complete and devastating horror!
What was the rest of the day like following the riots of the previous night?
Well it was strange, dreamlike. It felt like a continuous bad dream which looped over and over again. But like everything New York we moved on. The park closed for a long time after that incident and I had to walk around it to get to my uncle’s house. Similar to 9/11. We picked up, wiped off our tears, treated our wounds and continued on. What really sucked was when they finally re-opened the park they took our bandshell away.
I only remember what I heard about the riot on the news and I had no idea it was that band. Obviously there is much that was not reported that the police didn’t want people to know about. Why was so much hidden from the public?
The Tompkins Square Riot was a travesty. It was the pivotal point in the gentrification process. The police came in and used brute force to close a public park. As far as I understand the history of it the police and the city government totally broke the law on many levels that evening. Maybe it was hidden from the public that lived beyond the East and Hudson rivers. Today the after effects of that beat down rings load in the heads of many local. Locals, I said locals? Didn’t I? How many of us are left because of gentrification? No too many. This is an interview I did with Adam Warner at 3 min and 11 sec. Gary Reck, LES Jules and I talk about the events at the park and the East Village in general (http://www.mushroomradio.org/punk-clings-to-the-east-village.html).
Describe the nature of your interview with Adam Warner and what you and he discuss in the interview you have linked above.
Adam came to my 1st Street studio in search of folks to interview for his piece about Punk in the East Village. The synopsis pretty much covers the nature of the interview. Adam reminded me of a young Tom Brokaw. He was wonderful in his manner.
"Twenty years ago, the East Village was known for its homeless addicts and cutting-edge art. It's now more known for its upscale sushi spots and Wall Street bankers. The changes mean less crime, but some say it’s also zapped the neighborhood’s creative spirit. One event in particular was a watershed moment in the neighborhood’s transformation: the Tompkins Square Park Riot of 1988. Several locals, who are still active in the punk scene, practice in a studio on East First Street. They remember what the neighborhood used to be like."
My studio Sounds Right Sound was one of the very few recording and rehearsal spaces in that area. It was a tiny space specializing in original local rock music. I had a zero tolerance rule for cover songs unless they were obscure and artfully executed. I really hate going somewhere and a band is trying to mimic a famous band or is in the business of destroying a famous song. I say to myself, "if I wanted to hear the Stones or Sabbath or whatever I would have stayed home and listened to that band." I want and still yearn to hear new and original rock music. All genres of rock from psychedelic rock to black metal.
I believe like most transplanted or visiting artists they come to the East Village to re-live the experiences of the Ramones, Keith Richards, GG Allin, NY Dolls, The Velvet Underground, Bowie, The Plasmatics and more but unfortunately they find all the goodies have been replaced by bankers, silly restaurants and even sillier bars that no longer have live music but pipped in pop junk and sports on giant Televisions stacked one on top of each other and side by side. I hate that kind of place. Bullshit blaring all over the place. One of my former favorite bars 7B has yielded to the process of gentrification. I hope Nicole Hudson (the owner of the bar) doesn't hate me for saying so. I love Nicole. I had such a crush on her when we were kids. I still think the world of her. She is such a doll. My uncle Dibbs used to take me there when I was 15 years old and get me sauced up listening to punk and heavy metal at the Horseshoe Bar. I'd play pinball for hours on end while Dibbs socialized with the crowd of artists. We'd get warmed up at 7B and then take a pilgrimage to King Tuts Wha Wha Hut on 7A. We'd catch a band in the basement (sometimes I would hang out with Lemmy) and then stroll or stagger over to the Alcatraz until it closed.
The big change I have found with the East Village is its counter culture is gone. Do we even use the term counter culture anymore? When I was a teen one of my favorite things to do was leave Elmhurst, Queens and ride the train to St. Marks Place. I would cruise the street eaves dropping on conversations of the "art types." All these "art types" talked about film, photography, bands, painting. If they weren't talking about their art processes they would speak about their peers’ processes. I learned so much from these people. Today if I attempt to do the same on St. Marks or anywhere in the Village I get sick with the conversations that revolve around consumerism... my sweater, my vacation, I love that martini bar, have you tried the sushi?, my dad pays my rent, I bought it here, I bought it there, for crying out loud even motorcycle jacket prices have gone through the roof. I stopped by Schott NYC in SOHO the other day. I needed a new MC. My MC is in rags and I figured what the heck, instead of buying one second hand I'll splurge and spend a max of $300 for a sweet MC. They wanted $750.00 for a jacket. Forget that! Then I looked around for a few days as the weather started getting nicer and it seemed as if every mook now owned an expensive MC. Darn you Jessica Jones!!!
If I was going to talk about the East Village and the punk and metal scenes I needed an authority. Who better than my uncle Dibbs? Dibbs moved from Long Island, NY in 1974-ish to his Ave B and 10th Street store front apartment. The East Village was a war zone! And Dibbs was and is the real fuckin' deal. He was once dubbed the Mayor of the East Village because he knew and knows every artist, musician, poet, painter and filmmaker in town and they know him. Adam and I strolled from 1st Street and 1st Ave to 10th and B. I used the stroll to illustrate my thoughts to Adam. When we got to Tompkins Square Park we bumped into LES Jules and we let him take over. Poor LES Jules, I heard he got bonked on the head and died from the impact at the hospital. He was a doll when he wasn't over the top drunk. But that was kind of rare. Dibbs and LES were friends so we made our way from the park to Dibbs' place but he wasn't there. LES said Dibbs may be in the 10th Street library surfing the web so we made our way there. Between B and 10th and the library LES guzzled a hip bottle of vodka in one gulp. By the time we got to the library LES turned into Mr. Hyde. He lit a cigarette inside the library and started to recite more poetry but he was beginning to slur and his body loosened up. A librarian came over to us and asked him to please put it out and he told her to go fuck herself. It was horrifying and hilarious. Adam and I left him there. LES kind of defined some of the reason for the park beat down that hot summer evening in August 1988. I walked through the park often when it was tent city. It was scary at first but if you ignored the drunks and junkies you we were good to go. But the park wasn't made up entirely of drunks and junkies. There were a lot of great artists who hung out there to get out of their tiny East Village apartments on hot summer days. I believe the situation could have been handled much differently. The city government did not have to bash skulls and they certainly didn't have to displace the homeless like they did.
The worst blow to NYC underground culture was when Varvatos opened a branch in place of CBGB. Also a movie was released that is disrespectful of the club and its contributions to music, according to many reviewers who saw it.
Varvatos and his USA labeled jeans that are made in China and he sells for 200 bucks. I don't know what to say about it. On one side of the coin it’s neat to see him attempting to keep rock music and its genres alive. On the other he caters only to the rich. It's confusing. I love that he has live shows there but I wish he did it in another store. But my home was the Mars Bar. CB's for a while was unfriendly. You went and you were treated like a mule especially in the late 90's and early turn of the century. No drink deals and a bunch of hype. I wasn't around NYC for most of the 90's however when I got back into town CB's was too loaded with tourists, B&T's and if you ain't got a drink special you ain't got me. I wanted a place to chill and while the Mars Bar didn't have live music. Hank had original local bands in the juke box which is almost as cool. I loved the Mars Bar. I loved walking clients and out of town family members over there from my home and studio to watch them get nervous. Mars stunk like piss, had gorgeous bar maids and the most colorful scene in all of New York City. You had James Blonde pounding nails down his urethra, Camilo DeMaria reciting poetry, Mike Gray drawing amazing detailed images of the bar scene and the area, Gary Reck bouncing around drunk in his punk outfits and English accent yelling "BLOODY ‘ELL," Ray Bell hung over the bar head swaying left to right and so many more colorful locals. Legend has it that Mars was CB's after hours’ joint.
I watched that CB's documentary and thought how sad. They should have done it right. They got it all wrong. The whole thing, wrong. It’s appropriately wrong just like the gentrification process, Jon V's store and U2's album forced into my iPhone. It's the sign of the times.
So do you think Varvatos is acknowledging artists who made it on their own terms or overlooking the underground in favor of the mainstream?
I'm not sure what Varvatos' ideology is. If I were to draw on my experience with Trash and Vaudeville they weren't exactly Bennies Cheapies either. I loved perusing both shops. I lived on 1st Street between 1st and 2nd Ave when CB's transitioned to Varvatos'. It was cool and shitty at the same time. While I loved that the shop was based on something great, I loathed that I couldn't afford anything in that store. I went into Varvatos' once and said I have to buy something. I don't know why; I needed a new pair of jeans. Varvatos had a brand called USA. They looked cool and I tried to justify the ticket price. I tuned the tag over and saw a "Made in China" tag stitched to the inside. It was over for me. I will not buy anything labeled "USA" and labeled "Made in China."
It's easier going with the mainstream. After all everything is established. As we saw with CB's closing the underground ain't what it was. And if the underground is what it was it sure cannot sustain the rents in this city. No new artists and a lot of established artists cannot afford the rent in this town. Can we say thank you Michael Bloomberg for washing us out of the city we made attractive?
Every summer there are free punk shows in Tompkins to commemorate the riots. They are held to this day and the activism there is stronger than ever from what I have seen at those shows. Have you attended any recently?
I've pretty much either attended or played the riot commemoration activities in the park every year since I moved back to NYC in the late 90's. Loud and hard music blasting the softness of the New East Village to its edge. It's bittersweet.
How many bands in the NYC area have you been involved in since you began working professionally?
I am not sure. I've been in and out of a lot of bands. In my adult life I seek out singer-songwriter types so we can work on songs together. Either one on one or with the entire band. My last project was with Jennifer Blowdryer. Jenny was wonderful at first, had a lot of poems and energy to make them into songs with me. We worked out an entire album of material together but she got weird and eventually became hard to work with. I tried to keep it together but she scared off a great drummer and slowly began pecking at me. She was like Chinese water torture eroding me with her pettiness, complaints and penny pinching. One of my best friends George Mirzayans was in the band as was the new drummer Darren Fried who is a stellar human being and a great drummer and George Scherer our bass player; he was Jenny's only band contribution aside from her poetry. I stayed in the band because I loved the musicians and the music was fun. At the time my three year old son was battling cancer. Jennifer was ruthless with her late night calls. I had been producing a CD for us and she would call me to help step her through ordering our songs in fucking iTunes. There I am with chemo vomit on my chest and lap and Jenny would demand I help her after I told her would be easier for her to Youtube her question. I begged and begged her to text me after 7pm because of my son's condition be she continued to call me. Why didn't I turn my phone off? Because I needed to take important calls from doctors, my girlfriend (my son’s mother) and close family.
She moaned resisted about everything under the sun. One day I am in a recording session with her and I asked her to step a little closer to the microphone during a recording session and she blew up on me. "Damian! I know what I am doing! Don't tell me what to do!" "Jenny my (Neve 517's and Chandler Limited pre amps, AKG C414xlI mic) pre-amps are getting enough signal to pick up your voice, please just step a little closer and try to project a little more?" "God dammit Damian! You can't tell me what to do!" That was one of many exciting moments with Jenny.
One evening later on the band was at a roof top party in the East Village. We are all having a nice time. Jenny, me, George and someone else were sitting at a large round table. Jenny looks over to me and says, "Damian, you owe me an apology." I thought she was kidding. "Okay Jenn I'm sorry." "That's not good enough!" "What did I do??" "You made fun of me when I asked you to not smoke." "I am sorry however Jennifer it's my studio, you don't have to be near me when I am working. If you thought I made fun of you I am sorry again. Can we let it go?" "No and I want you to apologize again with more feeling." I slowly got up. "I gotta go and socialize some." "Damian we need to see a mediator." "You mean a shrink… a therapist? Okay, sure." I walked away and continued with the party and I avoided her for the rest of the night. It only got worse and the weeks passed. One day she "fired" me from my band. It was technically our band. I did the majority of the work by booking most of the shows, engineering, arranging music and housing the band for free in my studio on 1st Street and I produced and mixed the whole CD in between chemo and radiation treatments. With that the band gave her the axe (all but George Scherer) and that was the Jennifer Blowdryer Band. The name was her only other contribution. I suggested we use it.
Prior to that I was in a band called the Blueberry High Heels. I hated that fuckin name! I wanted the band leader Di Di Delicious to change it to The Heels but she refused. Di Di was wonderful. We had Diana Varga on the drums and Kenny Hurricane on the bass. Diana is an AMAZING drummer! I have yet to jam with someone so energetic and timely. Kenny was a great bassist. In both the Blowdryers and BBHH I played lead guitar. Di Di and I recorded about eight tunes with the band. After a year of playing and forming Di Di's music I needed to do my own thing. I asked her to help write lyrics for some of the musical arrangements I wrote but she refused or would barely try. When I told her I needed to take hiatus from the band to explore my musical needs she freaked out and behaved like I was a cheating husband. She started drunk dialing me and waking up my one year old son at two and three am. She got my drummer from my punk band (Jiggers Is King) to drunk dial me in the wee hours of the morning.
"You fucking scumbag!" Jonny would drunkenly yell into my voicemail. "You call yourself a fucking friend! How dare you call me a drunk! Some fucking friend you turned out to be!"
Jonny Gerstad and I have been in a band called Jiggers is King for about seven years. Jiggers Turner is our band leader. I’ll probably be in this band forever. It's easy, it’s fun and while we have had our disagreements we all seem to make it to the studio and have a blast. I'm the newest member of the band. I've been in the band for about seven years. Jiggers writes all the tunes and Jonny I write the drums and bass parts. I do wish we had more momentum but something is always happening to Jonny due to his alcoholism. He and I turned the basement into a killer studio I called Sounds Right Sound. One evening Jonny is way too drunk and he falls and breaks his hip. Since Jonny doesn't have health insurance he has to sell the building. I lived in Jonny's building until he sold it to a real shithead who doubled my rent. The lease for the studio still had five years on it but eventually the landlord took that piece of East Village history.
Back in Florida I played in a Blues band called Nick Trill and the Thrill Seekers. It was a wonderful swing band. We played a lot gigs in South Florida. One of my fondest memories was one weekend Nick and I decide to meet with a couple of my friends in Key West. Nick had all these connections at the bars and clubs. After I got a little drunk he grabbed me and said "come on man we are gonna every fucking watering hole on this island." He was right. We would walk right up on stage and within two minutes we stole the band’s drummer and guitarist. Nick would yell something like "Blues Shuffle in A... a one, a two, a three...!" and the bartender would set us up with cocktails and beers. We most certainly played every bar at least twice that night. We had the time of our lives.
I've been involved with a lot of bands here in NYC. Either playing bass, guitar or producing and engineering. I have a Youtube channel called Sounds Right Sound Damian Panitz Live in Brooklyn. What I do is I invite a band over to my home studio (where all the killer gear is) and they plug in to my recording system. The rule is you have to play as if you were on stage somewhere like Otto's Shrunken Head. So if you mess up you keep going. No stopping and you can play as many songs as you have as long as they are not covers. What the band gets is a free live super high quality demo which is posted on Youtube. How can you go wrong? Key word being free. I've had so much fun with Love Bomb 69, Gabby Sherba, The Morrow, The Fuze Brothers and more.
Any memorable experiences you have to share from playing with Love Bomb 69, Gabby Sherba, the Morrow and the Fuze Brothers?
What's not memorable about these bands and people? Let me start with Gabby Sherba. I met Gabby when my girlfriend was pregnant with my son. Glitter and sparkles follow Gabby. Gabby and her brother Alex are the kinds of musicians that amaze me. When they are playing everything looks effortless for them. During one of our sessions with the Morrow, Gabby sat at the drums with an acoustic guitar and sung backups and held a basic beat. It’s on my "Live in Brooklyn" with The Morrow on YouTube (check it out). After the intro she passes the guitar back to me and continues to play the drums. Meanwhile Alex has his hands conjuring up the magical spirits of a Gibson SG. Dan Morrow's sweet (Tom Yorke-ish) voice singing all while playing a great baseline on my Rickenbacker 4003. The next song I whip a drum track from my little Kaosillator and Gabby switches over to the bass and lead vocals. Boom-bahda-boom-dah dah, she picks on the bass. She appeared to be in a trance and her hands were in auto pilot. Boom-bahda-boom-dah dah she begins to sing with Dan. It was fucking magic. Working with three totally talented and magical musicians.
Love Bomb 69 and I have a special friendship; unfortunately they are on hiatus. Both Joe Mosc the bass player and Joe Barral are busy raising beautiful new born babies. Reena Rock the band leader and song writer is ground shaking! She came to me looking for a rehearsal space. I rented a night to them in my Sounds Right Sound studio space on 1st Street. I lived in the same building at the time so I would go down into the studio lounge and drink beer with her friends and listen to their set. I fell in love with a song she wrote called Boy. "Boy don't you know I'm dangerous..." were the lyrics. At least that’s how I perceived the lyrics. The kind of girl I liked (don't tell my wife) I thought. Nearly every practice I would listen to them. One day I offered to record them and they jumped on it. I've had the pleasure to share a stage with them. Every gig was amazing with Love Bomb69. Reena is magic on stage! The ultimate female front. Her energy radiates and all you want to do is get closer to the stage to see what she's going to do next. One night Jiggers is King shared the stage with them. Reena, Jae and Joe were sharp like three double O sevens. Everyone in the audience wanted to either be like Reena or be with her to some capacity.
One project I have the honor to have in my studio is a pop band called Goodnight Darlings. The Goodnight Darlings have been part of my rehearsal spaces for almost as long as Love Bomb69. I hope to someday get them to record with me. For now they have been really busy playing all kinds of gigs all over the States.
The Fuze Brothers are a bunch of friends of mine. I host a Youtube show called "Live in Brooklyn" which started out as "Live in The East Village." I have a ton of killer professional recording equipment for which I do multi tracking and my "Live in Brooklyn" show. It is about a professionally captured live performance. It's totally free of charge and I post the results on YouTube. It's great for everyone. The rule is, there is no stopping. You are performing live in front of an "audience."
Discuss the evolution of your Youtube show and how many bands and artists you have guested since the beginning?
I have a ginormous love for live music and recorded live music. Multi-tracking is time consuming. It can take upward of a couple of months to record a song, sometimes longer to get it right. Sometimes it's captured in minutes. How many bands have the cash around for that kind of time in recording, mixing and mastering? Not too many neighborhood bands do. It's limiting and really frustrating. One day I made a mental account of all the bands from the neighborhood. All of them were/are great. Sewage, Love Bomb69, Jiggers is King, The Jacked Bennies, The Blueberry High Heels, The James Rocket, The Spills, Terra Novus, The Morrow, Tyrantula, Felony Be Bop Club, SOS, Crack Sex and more.
They all needed to be recorded mainly for historical purposes. Bands play to air and leave no footprint. No document of their existence during a time when music is so accessible and theoretically "easy" to record. So I figured what better way to capture the sound than to invite bands over for a live recorded gig they could use as a demo and a document.
I was already recording live jams where I would either play guitar, bass and or various synths as well as engineer the whole banana in musical entities called Tickle Clit (AKA Tickle It), The Spills and Franz Rudolf This is What Happens On Tuesday. Each entity had an "all star" cast of local musicians like guitar maker Vince Valenti (his telecasters rock! get one with my Sound Laboratories pickups installed), George Mirzayans, Richie Graziano, Liiam Greguez and Eli Pondikos. It was the right thing to do.
Currently I wish the list was greater, however I feel that will change soon. One of these days I hope either my guitar pickup making business and/or my recording business gains momentum and I could quit my day job and focus on producing music and awesome pickups.
In my perfect world I would own and run a facility that is recording studio that is attached to a friendly neighborhood dive. The dive would offer free live music, inexpensive cocktails, great sound and only play the music being produced in the music studio. The bar would give digital music away (customer provided thumb drive), sell records and band shirts and it would serve as the talent net. The third element of the business would be for musical instrument invention, building and repair.
It has been a long time since I was in Key West. Is there anything like a punk scene there or is it mostly blues? I’ve heard some about the Fantasy Fests held down there each year. Ever been to one of those?
Key West and Southern Florida really came to life when the tourists went back North. The locals had more time to hang out after working a long "season" and the town would release in the hot summer heat. I love the water! Beaches, lakes, pools, swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing are some of my favorite things to do. Add a nice cocktail into the mix and I've got heaven.
This toughest part about moving to Florida was not having a punk or metal scene. Not that it wasn't there it was just inaccessible at the time. The two main scenes there in the early 90's was the hip hop gang types (not for me) and the Dead Heads. So I made friends with the Dead Heads. They had a dedicated music scene where folks actually appreciated live music, art and were very tolerant towards everything but assholes. I liked that. I liked that they liked me even if I knew shit about Jerry Garcia. But my knowledge of the Dead grew fast. I’ll never forget my first non NYC experience at a Dead show.
I was bussing tables at rib joint in Boca Raton called Bobby Rubino. A super stoner and fellow busboy approached me and asked, "dude, you like the Dead?" I said, "not really." "Ohhh," he said. "Why do you ask?" "Well know you got that big ol' van and stuff... and... well I was going to say if you were to drive me and a couple of friends up to Atlanta to see the shows we would pay for everything. Gas, drugs, food, campground and tickets to all three shows." He pulled out these fantastic mail order tickets that were gorgeous and glittery. The tickets kind of hummed and glimmered in the bussing room. I said, "all I got to do is drive? Would any of you or your friends want to share some of the driving up to Atlanta?" "Fuck yeah dude! You'd let me drive that beast?" "Sure, it's not rocket science."
I had the time of my life! I was converted. I loved the scene. It was so what my mother warned against. Drugs, music, girls and lawlessness within a boundary of positive energy and karma. I had so much fun at the shows. Although it was an odd culture, I felt like I had stumbled onto a cousin planet and it was perfectly acceptable to hang out for a while. And I did and I still am. For myself I broke a boundary and realized great music is great music.
After that experience I would travel to see the Dead perform as far as Eugene, Oregon. However, it wasn't strictly going to the Dead I simply loved the scene. If you didn't have tickets to the show, no worries the parking lot scene was even more fun. The Dead show was simply the icing on the cake. I would make new friends (many of whom I stay in touch with today), see other bands and check out city and country sides. I would have never imagined me getting into the Dead or its scene growing up in Queens. The friends I grew up with and are in touch with find it hard to digest that their mightiest of metalhead friends went the way of the Dead.
What else were you doing in Florida around that time?
While I was studying at Florida Atlantic University I took a documentary film making course. My class partner Ryan Colison came up with this idea to make a documentary about the blues scene in Southern Florida. I thought he was weird. I heard of no such thing. He said, “oh yeah there is certainly a lively blues scene down here." Ryan was also from Queens. We met at the university. So we found out where the Blues bars were and shot our little movie over a course of a few weeks.
During one interview I noticed a familiar Queens accent emitting from the band’s bass player. So I asked and he said he was indeed from Queens. He went on about being from NYC and playing bass for a Metal band (I think it was Septic Death) and I went on about my stay with a hardcore punk crossover band called Toxic Waste. We had so much fun talking about the old NYC scene. He then said to me that there is a shortage of blues bass players in town, since I was in a metal band I would certainly have the speed chops down. All I would need to learn are the basic walking patterns and I would be in a Blues band and I would get paid $100.00 a gig. That’s when I joined Nick Trill and the Thrill Seekers. I soon learned there was hot Blues scene throughout Southern Florida. What added to the fun was I could join in with nearly any band and hold the bottom.
That leads me to my greatest Florida love, Kelly. Kelly was a red headed bomb shell! She hung out with my roommate’s girlfriend. Whenever she came over to the apartment my palms would get sweaty and I would develop a stammer. One evening I was on my way out to a live open Blues jam with my band. We were going to show the other players what we were all about. I pass Kelly with my bass strapped onto my back and she asked where I was going with that thing on my back. I said with a stammer, "I'm going to big jam in Del Ray. Would you like to go?" I expected her to say no to the geek boy with the guitar but she said sure in a very sweet tone.
The club was really cool! It was decked out, dark and mildly classy but had the perfect edge for the Blues scene. I think Kelly imagined that we were going to some sweaty dump in someone’s warehouse. She was impressed. I was nervous! The band went up and I played. Time went fast. So fast things seemed to blur. I got off the stage, went up to Kelly and asked, "so whudya think?" "Oh my God!" she said "You were amazing!! Your band is amazing!!"
Like the Blues scene in Florida the punk and metal scenes will never go away or die. Wax and wane, yes. Shit there a rockabilly scene still jumpin'. There are a couple of really cool metal places near my music studio in Bushwick. It's why I wanted to move there. My former 1st Street studio had the Mars Bar on the corner. Nothing compares to the Mars Bar. In Bushwick I have Acheron around the corner and one or two other places. But it ain't what it used be.
I have known Diana Varga for several years. I first met her when she was the drummer for Vulgaras in the early 2000s. Did you attend any of their shows in those days?
I wished I had seen her play with Vulgaras. I heard so many wonderful things about the band from her.
Do you think the scene will survive all the gentrification that has happened since the riots?
Survival of the scene. I so badly want to say yes. Will it be like it was? I doubt it. Music scenes are borne and supported by the youth. High school age mostly. Today’s kids as wonderful as they are towards cultural acceptance, sexuality and many other public issues they are lame when it comes to music and art. Not to say they aren't into it they just not in it if you catch my drift. If you were to hang out on the block where my studio is there is so much going on. My building rocks. 99% of nearly 100 rooms blare awesome metal music. From fast to slow. Oddly enough there seems to be giant condom keeping everyone apart. I can't explain it. I can describe it or compare it to cigarette smoking. We all know smoking is bad for you. However, it had a great social scene that no one seems to remember. I have made so many friends by either bumming a smoke or just hanging out and smoking. What I am saying is people came together under a commonality. We do not do that enough nowadays. Does that make any sense? Today we are so afraid to offend, break social rules or be authentically different we sterilize environments designed to be unsterile germ farms like a goddamn bar. Is the true scene dead? No. Will it come back with a vengeance? I don't know. What I am looking out for is a new scene that rocks. It will happen and I really hope it’s as authentic as Metal, Punk, Thrash, Rock n' Roll and the Blues.
Patti Smth seemed to think it was still possible for it to return in one form or another. It always seems to come when people least expect it, as when Pantera released Vulgar Display Of Power in the early 90s (which was also when Scandinavian black metal emerged onto the scene). Will that element of surprise still be a factor?
For the current occupying East Village culture, probably. The current majority culture of the East Village are resauranters and shoppers. However, I believe it will be similar to the Blues in the sense that I spoke about earlier. It will exist within pockets, backrooms and the outer rims of the mainstream culture, which is where we thought it was until the East Village died. I don't think we will see bar after bar, dive after dive and club after club with live metal and rock music like we had in the East Village back in the 80's and 90's. I don't think we will ever see a record shop like the one in QP's Market Place. I do see pockets of kids who pick up where we metal heads left off. Earlier I spoke about the building where my rehearsal space is housed. I was astonished when I moved in and heard all the wonderful live metal charging around the building. Actually I was happy to hear zero hip hop and zero pop, it is all rock and metal. Nearly 100 rooms that rock! So there are bands and musicians out there making stuff, which is great news! The question is where is there an area where we can bounce around from place to place to see and hear these bands? Not to say there aren't any venues. There are plenty of them; it’s just not concentrated like it used to be.
Oddly enough I have to give some props to my old home town of Queens. I've played in various bands at most of the local Manhattan and Brooklyn bars and clubs. For most Manhattanites and Brooklynites going to Queens is like taking a trip to the moon. So it's always been an arm wrestle to get my bandmates to agree to play in Queens. I usually do the bookings or teach my band leaders how to book gigs. I'll tell you the folks in Queens rock! I got used to the stale faced, bored looking audience members of Manhattan and Brooklyn (not including Tompkins Square Park people... they also rock!) when I'd play gigs. It was like playing for statues no one dances or moshes or anything in "hip" parts of town. When Jiggers is King played a bar called Gussy's not only did they have a built in scene there the people jumped and danced and loved us!
Concerts that charge anything over $25.00 certainly don't make music, art and film accessible. I wanted to see Black Sabbath play in Brooklyn. When I saw the asking ticket price I said fuck that! I could invest in my guitar pickup making business or I could build a microphone or go someplace comfy and have cocktails. Just yesterday I saw a posting for a guitarist named Steve Kimmok playing the City Winery. I wanted to see him but for $125.00 a ticket… for a two hour event... no way. I have better and more creative things to do with my $125.00.
When I play a show I do my best to keep it free. For Christ’s sake the bar is selling booze and then what does the band take home anyway? I chuckle at my fellow local musicians that only "play for pay." Fuck that and fuck you! Are you famous? They usually sit home griping about the lost scene and how iTunes and shit are ripping them off. I play and record because I love to play and record money is the by product. What the fuck do you think there is another Billy Graham out there high on acid looking to dump loads of cash on a band in a dying industry? Correction it's not dying, it's the business model that’s in serious flux. These days unless you're slutting yourself out to the production facility you are lucky to make shit. That or you have Daddy's money.
What can be done today to make the scene similar to how it was back then, if not exactly so?
That’s a tough question. If we had the funds to pump the music to high school kids like we used to maybe that would ignite the fire. But to be honest I want to see the kids do their own organic rebellion with music and fashion. Rock, Punk and Metal are organic art forms. At least at their roots. As was Reggae which is another form of music I love. Once a form of music is processed like the 1975's or Vampire Weekend you know we're screwed. Man those highly manufactured bands I just mentioned.
A few weeks ago I was strolling down Orchard Street looking for a new leather jacket. There was a line of teenage girls extending from Rivington to Delancey. I cut the line to get to a store and asked, "hey girls, whatchya all down here on line here for?" "We are here for a meet and greet with the band the 1975's!" "I guess they are an awesome band?" I asked. "Oh yeah, my favorite." As soon as I got to my computer I looked them up. What a disappointment. It was manufactured junk that sounded like recycled manufactured junk. I wanted to cry for these kids. Why was I so fortunate to inherit amazing music? The 60's were awesome, the 70's were awesome, the 80's were awesome and the 90's were awesome! What happened? There was shite during these decades like disco but even Prince was amazing as was Madonna.
Will there be a scene? For the sake of my five year old son I certainly hope so. I believe the "I" generation will fade much like the stagnant 50's generation did and my boy will (I hope) find decades of amazing art and sound.
And that’s when the geezers like you and I will have a great time. We'll be seasoned and ready for some kind of cool scene to happen. We'll open our own CBGB and Mars Bar. We'll be ready with the galleries and clubs that serve up authentic organic arts. At least that’s my daydream.
Damian Panitz on Youtube