Iconicide has been part of the New York Hardcore scene since 1988 when we still had CBGB and Bleecker Bob’s and there was no “Quality Of Life” program, no gentrification. How many changes have you witnessed in the scene since then?
Haha, do you have a few hours? Really, so much was swimming through my head when I read this question. I could go on about physical, political and economic differences, but instead I'll cut to the chase, and say that the atmosphere in NYC back then was one of transparency. I've dealt with a huge variety of individuals, even in Iconicide alone, and some of them have been exceedingly fucked up. But there was always an unspoken knowledge that what you saw was what you got. That fella in the threadbare clothes really did live in that car, or that park, or that box, with no other means of support. That girl you met really was brilliant and slightly unhinged, and it really was her soul she poured out in the middle of that squat. There were one or two people who were two faced, but the truth would come out in the end. I'm not romanticizing anything. But the reason I begin by stating this, is that the world we inhabit now is one of abject duplicity. People have become so invested in this senile bastard zombie culture, that many are terrified of genuine substance and forthrightness. They want to be lied to, and at the least, are disappointed when they are not. One of the quotes I begin the novelization of my comic SickWorld! with is, "They say that the Truth will Set you Free, but when they say Free, what they really mean is Alone."
That is a truism which, sadly, could be applied with increasing veracity to the "scene," as much as it can to society in general. Within the scene Iconicide was born to, there was so much discordant vitality, it could blow you away. I could start the day at a Hardcore matinee, stop off at a Punkture (Punk Poetry) event, and end up at a late Metal show before I was through. And no one gave a shit what other people thought. People like David Huberman and Eak!, who are both still active, would scream their poetry at the top of their lungs, and it spoke the Truth. Brian Childers (R.I.P.) from School Of Violence would throw torn out pages from newspapers and porno magazines into the crowd during their set, and they spoke the Truth. Starchild, Riddler and that lot would hold court at the Anarchist Switchboard, et cetera, and once again, what you see is what you get.
In this age, semblance is lauded above all. Sucking up to the right people under proper circumstances has become a time honored skill. I can truly say without reservation that, to a significant degree, despite what Iconicide continue to do for other bands and artists in NYC, we exist in spite of the "scene" instead of because of it. I could give specifics, but only at the risk of falling further out of favor.
Which is not to say these years have left us bitter and vindictive. A staggering array of compatriots have broken rank to step in when needed, and we have hosted (meaning, they have played in Iconicide) members from such bands as Armed Citizens, Urban Waste, Public Nuisance NYC, Ultra Violence, Rat At Rat-R, Final Warning, Ism, The Accelerators, to name a few. But Iconicide is first and foremost about Disabuse - stripping people of their delusions. For one edition of our show series Puke Island - launched in response to ABC No Rio's takeover of Punk Island - we booked Skinhead Hardcore/Oi! band Truth In Needles, right next to Anarchopunk band A//Truth. And for the record, it was a kickass show! So maybe it's nostalgia for that vitality I'd mentioned earlier, but we continue to strive towards recreating the kind of scene that brought Iconicide about in the first place. And we have no qualms about crossing party lines to join forces with anyone of conviction and substance. Which is one reason we brought in bassist TJ from Universal Truth Machine as our current guitarist - he plays bass on our new album, "Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death!" - which, in turn, is in memory of our fallen bassist Shane Keogh, also of the band Lucifer Jones. Lee and TJ from Universal Truth Machine saw Iconicide performing at Punk Island without our bass player one year - they were wandering around, pretty disillusioned by this whole "punk" thing - when we tore into our song, "Friendly Fire." It left an indelible mark on those two, to the point where that song inspired UTM's track "Piggie." And, as they say, the rest is Heresy.
Why do you think the mainstream has taken such a drastic turn toward media deception and willful vacuousness? What is the media’s role in people’s unwillingness to think for themselves?
The media, the mass media in particular, was created to sell products and to consolidate wealth for the ultra rich. It is a misconception that it was ever meant to inform. Its main products are tropes, false points of fixation in the common mind. A steady flow of wealth can only be guaranteed when the body politic suffers a psychotic break. Once crippled, the public mind will do anything to justify its own sedentary existence. Chiefly, it feeds itself distractions. But again, that lies at the base of human nature. The quest for society, and the creation of "-isms," is the quest for existential divestment and accelerated alienation. Based on this, I would say that the media is functioning perfectly.
In spite of this trend, is there still a certain amount of honesty among those who are still involved in the punk and hardcore scenes today? How actively have those bands you mentioned above help support Iconicide?
Between show series like Puke Island, and the female fronted showcase series Iconicide Presents: A Witches' Night Out, in addition to Art/Punk shows organized with JohnnyV from NY Scumrock band Public Nuisance and Ned from Hammerbrain/Damn Kids, and Tompkins Square Park Police Riot Anniversary shows with Chris Flash from the SH@DOW underground newspaper, not to mention shows we build for ourselves, Iconicide book dozens of bands per year. Due to a topic we're not supposed to mention (someone we had nurtured into a protected member of the "scene" turned backbiter on us) things ain't what they could be, and we don't get bookbacks anywhere near those afforded other bands. But sometimes we receive Respect for Respect. Chris from The Best Lies got us in a couple places, Wendy from Sexual Suicide booked us a few times, Universal Truth Machine, The Wurst, Taina from Cojoba brought us in at Don Pedro’s, Big Daddy Slug from Kilslug/Up Your Bucket booked us in MA, Jonny Kooklyn from Gas NYC had us open for the Mentors, Noel from The Lost Riots (who just stood in on bass for Part One of our 28th Anniversary) is bringing us out to CT in 2017, John from Fastlane does what he can, Dennis from Fed Up!/United Riot Records booked us a couple times, and put us on the NY/CT Hardcore Connection compilation, Fran from Ultra Violence put us on the Sun Burnt comp. The most anyone has ever done back for us has been Aerik Von from Lucifer Jones, who, beyond the blood and wreckage, is a solid Human Being. Then there’s Frankie Wood, who’s an animal all to himself. Some other bands have said they'd get to it, but we're still waiting on that. We even joined a collective called Adrenaline Head Productions a few years back (our song, "Workers Of the World = Fuck Off!!" is on their compilation What Lies Underground) but after two shows with them, we basically watched the rest of the bands continue to help each other. It's a good thing then, that I didn't start Iconicide to be liked. Respect carries far more weight in my book.
What was the meaning of the name Iconicide when the band started?
The concept behind the name Iconicide came about when I was 6 or 7. Seeing the movie Peter Pan with my family at age 6, I was appalled that I would be called upon, as a member of the audience, to bring back Tinkerbell by BELIEVING. It was such a dirty trick. I had never believed in anything before in my life, and I had no reason to start now. Did that mean that, even with the horror show that was my childhood, someone could come along and BELIEVE, and everything would be fixed? It was all that simple. Uh huh, you bet.
Then there was my first day of Sunday School, at age 7. Just to con kids into spilling the beans, the teacher, who I knew would never reveal who she really was, gave us a free writing period, and told us to write down three wishes. Again, I had never wished for anything before, with the thought that I would actually get it, and wondered why, in this place where we were supposed to learn about god, were we being asked to do something as ungodly as making a wish? And who was she; that I should trust that wish to her? Who would she tell those wishes to, and what would be done to us when we were found out?
My first, and strongest wish, which I did not write down, was to kill god.
There are a few important tenets at the foundation of Iconicide, but for starters, read up on these two books. "Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact" by Ludwik Fleck, and "Snapping" by Florence Conway and Jim Siegelman. You'll either thank me or curse me.
Has Iconicide had many lineup changes over the years since they formed in 1988? What is the band’s current lineup?
Iconicide has been around now for 28 years, and it has been 28 years in a state of flux. The band has had well over 100 members. This started out because of the volatility of NYC, but it also has to do with the volatility of personalities we attract. To quote my drummer Maj Da Beast, Iconicide for the past decade has been more a collective than anything else. Sometimes there has been a common core of myself and one other member - for example, Maj has been back in the band since 2011 - but for the most part we have had members pass through our ranks, including those who have played different instruments at different times. It would be cool, I suppose, to have a dedicated lineup, which would allow us to tour - but until then we roll with the punches.
Right now Maj and I are that core I spoke about. I first encountered Maj on the schoolyard in 1977, without ever knowing who he was, or that he was in the school band with my Idiot Brother. Maj, who’s completely self taught, is an all around musician who has played with such luminaries as Jaco Pastorius, as well as Metal bands like Armageddon, Omen II, Sinner Steel, and his own solo project Intelligence Is Bliss. He’s also an underground makeup artist, with a few equally underground movies in the can.
Then there’s TJ Frawls from Universal Truth Machine. We brought in TJ after our real bass player Shane Keogh died on Avenue A in August of 2015, and I picked up guitar. But since my playing style most closely resembles beating my instrument half to death, we swapped places, and I switched to bass, with TJ on guitar. TJ was an easy fit, because he’s whip smart, acerbic, and a quick study. And he views Iconicide’s time signatures and chord progressions as an engaging challenge. There are regular and semi regular players, like Fastlane, who step in when needed. Otherwise, we configure like Voltron.
Having that high volume of membership, I'm sure you have dealt with a wide range of musicians. How have you managed this, while remaining true to Iconicide? What do you look for, and how has your own musical history contributed to this? What kind of relationship do you have with your members, past and present?
I grew up on an expansive array of music, from Motown and old Soul, to Black Sabbath, to Polkas. And as musically diverse as Iconicide is, there’s always more I’ve held back, crossing many genres. Iconicide, however, are at once wide ranging and polarizing. Our skeleton is a mix of Hardcore, Punk and Metal; but to Skinheads we’re Punk, to Punks we’re Metal, and to Metalheads we’re Hardcore. On top of that, we’re Metal without solos, Hardcore without breakdowns, and Punk without singalongs. Which, at times, can confound bookers and promoters, who are looking to build a paint by numbers, formulaic show, and don’t realize we can, and have, played with just about anyone, from The Scarring Party to Missing Foundation. As a rule, we work best with musicians who possess a wide range of musical tastes, however this can be hard to come by. The more trained a musician, the more restrictive they tend to be in what they are willing to do. And although our sound has evolved over almost three decades, it has evolved entirely independent of prevailing trends. I’ve seen Hardcore veer into bad Metal, and Punk draw dangerously close to becoming Pop. Only Metal has remained relatively pure – I’m not talking about Math Rock, or Nu or Hipster Metal. But there used to be a lot more Crossover.
Part of Iconicide is that players who spend time with us often have to face their own preconceptions about song structure, technique et cetera. I’ve had members who were far more skilled than I, say that Iconicide has made them better musicians. There’s a rumor that’s been circulating that says we’re difficult to work with, but ask any of our satellite members and you’ll find the truth to be entirely different. For example, Blackout Shoppers had to warn their drummer never to stand in with us ever again, because they were afraid he was going to jump ship and join us full time (not that we’d asked him to). And we never close doors on people; even those we’d had a falling out with. A perfect example is Big Mike, a member we’d had to kick out of the band three times over. Each time, we brought him back on a different instrument, and each time, he screwed it up, but we work with him sometimes because we need to, and we know whom and what we’re dealing with. After all, I’ve never had to like someone, to respect them. I’d like to see more people think that way.
Does Iconicide have a working relationship of any kind with the staff of The Shadow?
The SH@DOW underground newspaper was initially published sometime around when I had begun hanging and going to organizational meetings at this basement space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side called the Anarchist Switchboard, so I knew of its publisher Chris Flash way before I knew him in person. Back then, I was already putting out my own zines Someplace Like Earth (political) and Trading Post (international tape trading network), so I would regularly drop off copies of both there, and I got into the habit of picking up stacks of the SH@DOW, and trading them with an anarchist bookstore in PA called The Wooden Shoe (French anarchists wore wooden shoes called Sabot, which is where the word Sabotage comes from) for copies of their newspaper LIFE IS FREE. And according to Chris Flash, we’ve known a lot of the same people for decades, without having ever met each other. Then in 2006, roughly 18 years late, I ran into him at a show he was putting on in Tompkins Square Park, and asked him about playing there. Everything else sort of fell into place, and I started providing bands for his shows, playing semi regularly in the park, and, for the past 6 or 7 years, I’ve been organizing the Riot anniversary shows with him. He was the one who approached the Pyramid about me starting a venue there, and, though his take on activism precedes mine by a good 10 or 20 years, we’re both pragmatic and focused when it comes to putting things together, and we’re both far more concerned with what makes sense, what has merit, and what truly packs a punch, than what’s fashionable or cool.
How much distribution did your zines Someplace Like Earth and Trading Post get, and what topics were you writing about?
Nothing I've ever put out has really had any distribution, aside from online places to pick up our two most recent albums, and that you can buy SickWorld! on Amazon and Kindle. Someplace Like Earth, Trading Post, and all the other stuff I put out under LastMinute Productions, including zine/compilation tape combos like Dead Air, Destroy And Be Free!, and This Isn’t Anarchy – This Is Chaos!, I did solo, and it was always at a loss, to the point where I called what I was doing "Anti Profit." Getting the word out has always been more important than making a buck (though, yeah, getting paid would be fine).
I owe that all to Charlie Nash and Carol Schneck, who in the mid 80s did a zine called Circular, and a band called Crippled Hippo (Charlie was also in San Francisco noize giants Caroliner Rainbow Hernia Milkqueen), and always put out everything without charging for it. Their explanation was, if you did your stuff for free, nobody could tell you what to do.
Iconicide still follow this maxim. Where other bands are selling shirts and CDs for $10, $15, $20 a pop, when you come to see us live, we sell double sided t shirts for $8, full or "double length" CDs for $5, or a CD and a shirt for $10.
Someplace Like Earth was primarily a political zine, but I had absolutely no ideological benchmark. As with my art/poetry zine The First Stone, it was relatively scattershot, and SLE ultimately mainly consisted, aside from pilfered articles, and catalog listings of "bootleg documentaries" in audio and video on covert action, recorded off WBAI and elsewhere, of guest editorials written by prisoners I corresponded with, including one Super Maximum Security (23 hour lockdown) fella in Arizona State Prison. We really should listen to what they've got to say. We have far more in common with them than we think.
We all know that many of the clubs where bands could play in the 80s and 90s are no longer around. Also the media has exploited the memory of CBGB, in newspapers and that schlocky movie released in 2013. What are your thoughts on this?
Hilly could have bought up that entire block on the Bowery, multiple times over during CB’s heyday, and yet he chose to continue paying rent, up until it was finally priced beyond his means. That shows either a lack of vision, or an acceptance of the myth of perpetual progress. I have not seen that movie, nor do I plan to. In any case, the artistic bar has been lowered so drastically, that clubs which existed at that time could never thrive today. When I was running the venue Hellhole N.Y.C. with Aerik Von in the basement of the Pyramid, management would not allow us to clear the stage of equipment before they let in hordes of Glo Stick twirling hipsters to patronize the house dealer, and bop along to canned music. And they doubled up the prices on drinks, only for Hellhole, without telling me, which drove away most of my audience, so they could terminate my agreement. As it is in the world at large, it’s all about moving units. That’s slaughterhouse mentality, and all that it will ever yield is progress. It just so happens that organically produced live music is a casualty of this progress.
Do you believe that record outlets such as Bleecker Bob's and Venus Records closed down for the same reasons as the clubs?
There are a number of reasons for that; both economic and social. Mainly, it is because the circumstances which brought them about – the mass flight of the Yuppies to the Midwest, and the reclamation of the city by a culturally mixed working class – had been reversed due to its systematic takeover by the Yuppies’ children, the Hipsters. A lot of people who worked in and patronized those stores were participants in and proponents of street level and underground culture. In the 1990s, though, things started to change. And a bit of snobbishness set in, along with newcomers to the “scene,” who set about redefining it, through the establishment of nascent but ever growing cliques. People were sold the idea that the more insular something was, the more special it was. It’s really more complex than that, and is tied in with the process of gentrification, but that’s a start. People always seek out and create a culture which provides them a mirror image of themselves, and the more shallow people become, the more shallow the art and music they seek out, produce, and encourage to thrive.
Besides the clubs you mentioned earlier, has the band appeared at ABC No Rio in its long existence?
Iconicide played at ABC No Rio three times between 1995 and 2009, and the later the date, the more I felt like we were flying in under the radar. The first time we played, the building was a Squat, and Iconicide included Arry Vederci, drummer for both the Sic Fucks (Tish and Snooky from Sic Fucks have run Manic Panic for over 40 years) and political powerhouse Urgent Fury (Abe Rodriguez from Urgent Fury is now a world renown author, who continues the band in Berlin). The show was a benefit for ABC No Rio; the headliner cancelled, and only two people paid to get in, including my sister, and a former bassist of mine, who had joined NJ Noisecore pioneers Psycho Sin (who remain active to this day). We returned there for our 20th Anniversary in 2008, with the lineup which recorded our album “Bout Fucking Time: 1988-2008 = The First Twenty Years” (That album never officially came out). The PC element at the venue was beginning to take hold, but we brought along a cake, decorated with the four elements of an Iconicide symbol; a crucifix, dollar sign, inverted “peace symbol,” and swastika. When Phil from The Blame brought us back in 2009, we had Rob, bass player for NYHC bands like Krieg Kopf, Rapid Deployment Force and Antidote. But I guess word got around that we really don’t care about one political Flavor of the Month versus another, because we’ve never been asked back, and any show requests we’ve made have gone unanswered.
I’d gone to ABC No Rio since 1988, when shows would take place in the raw, open first floor, which had a huge gaping hole in the rear wall, through which it was possible to climb down into the back yard, and every show was a good natured free for all, so I find their current committee driven approach to “punk” disingenuous at best. Now, any band who want to play their venue – including, I suppose, their “In Exile” series – must submit their lyrics in advance for ideological vetting, and just on principle that irks me. Even if they found my words to be thematically palatable, I don’t like the idea of subjecting “Punk” to this newfound species of jingoism. Iconicide played Punk Island for the first three years, because it had been established by an ex squatter called Slug, whom I knew from Tompkins Square Park in the 80s. When, against his better judgment, he handed it over to ABC No Rio, they immediately infected it with their own brand of conservatism, even employing roving monitors to make sure bands kept “On Script,” and didn’t say anything ideologically verboten. Which, in turn, is why I started doing my show series Puke Island, which in this year (2017) will be in its seventh edition.
The last time I had contact with someone who has had anything at all to do with ABC No Rio, I had struck up a conversation with this punk girl whom I had overheard had a band, and I started to offer her a spot playing the next Witches’ Night Out, when she cut me off and said she only goes to Transcore and Queercore shows. It was that cut and dried for her. There was no reason for her to play a female fronted event, which was not openly Queer; not even one exclusively centered on the power of the female voice in Rock N Roll, which naturally included queerdom as part of the female spectrum. It was Queer for Queer, or nothing else.
How do you usually go about booking Puke Island shows? I take it there that bands who want to appear at these shows don’t have to be anarchist or queer or what have you? Who has played these events most often?
Contrary to the way bookers or promoters assemble shows, I steer clear of repeat booking the same bands, show after show, or sticking to a tried and true, paint by numbers formula. Any time I go to any event, and I encounter a band who stand out as doing something genuine, I introduce myself, and let them know I’d like to work with them; either to “share a stage,” by playing the same show – either we bring them in, or vice versa – or by me booking them for one of Iconicide’s events. Sometimes this works out very well, and it’s a mutual exchange. Once again, that’s something we need more of.
One thing I’ve found, is that people get confused by my unwillingness to pick sides. There are a few pretty prominent feuds going on now in NYC, in which I am on good terms with both parties – or at least, that’s from my end. For example, there’s one situation where, after a bar fight, one party was driven out of town, and is still not welcome here. But after listening to both sides, I concluded that neither was entirely blameless, so I was not about to demonize one participant or another.
I bore easily with bands endlessly parroting the line, “Support the Scene!” when they really only mean them, or maybe their friend’s band. And I’ve never stuck with one facet, or faction, or clique. That’s counterintuitive. From my standpoint, Good Music is Good Music, and I’ve no qualms with booking, for example, Jazz sextet Marta and the Muses, with NY Punk band SEW@GE, as I did for Closing Night of JohnnyV’s recent Art/Punk show Demolition Exhibition.
Still, one thing people really need to keep in mind, is that Iconicide are not a venue, promoter or booking service. We are a BAND. And we need to be booked, just as much as you do. If you like what we’re doing, don’t just contact us asking to be put on a show. Bring us out to play. And if we have extended your reach, and our efforts have helped you, thank us, not in words, but in deeds. One of the simplest and direct ways to do so? BOOK US.
What is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement which you and the band referred to on your studio releases Jesus Is The Bomb, Father, Son, Holocaust and your live release Jesus Corpse: DNR?
The Voluntary Human Extinction MovemenT is an organization “run” by Les U. Knight, which seeks to call attention to the detrimental nature of the overpopulation that seems hardwired into the genetics of humanity. Since the Industrial Revolution especially, our reach has exceeded our grasp, and we have always sought distinction through conspicuous consumption. As a byproduct of evolution, it was natural that we reach a saturation point, at which our artificially inflated appetites curtail the lifespan and sustainability of our biosphere. VHEMT employs the slogan, “Let Us Live Long and Die Out,” and though Les and I agree on the peril of unchecked expansionism, we differ on the remedy, and I adhere more closely to Charles Manson’s pocket philosophy A.T.W.A. (Air, Trees, Water, Animals). Also of note is Jacques Ellul’s stance in his book The Technological Society, and William H. Whyte’s in The Organization Man, which maintain that progress as we know it is a fatal disease, and resisting it is the last bastion of liberty.
Currently, we stand at the crux of a gestating World Government; first NAFTA, then the European Union, and soon something calling itself the United States of Africa. To rephrase a previous statement, society was invented so that humanity could sacrifice itself at the altar of globalism. In an era where corporations have been granted personhood, the average world citizen is an absolute sociopath, whose morals are based, not on any homeostatic internal compass, but on whatever the traffic will allow. And the higher one ascends the societal ladder, the less even these more pedestrian social psychoses apply.
It is a common misconception that the Powers That Be seek nothing short of Zero Population Growth. In truth, it is the exact opposite. Denser populations, and greater drains on the resources of the closed system in which we live, demand ever more complex, far reaching and invasive governance. To quote the first line of our eponymous song’s second verse, “More people always means less freedom.” The trick has always been to make it the public’s idea. For example, generations of unchecked immigration, lack of family planning among lower classes, and a cultivation of a recidivist prison state, have yielded a burgeoning population which must be kept track of; for example, via the propagation of cashless EBT accounts, through which every transaction is immediately trackable. And among the higher classes, the virtues of jacking into the System are equally championed, to the point where cash itself has now become suspect. Certain banks will no longer even accept it as a deposit.
One must realize that this confluence is no aberration; rather it is a looming wave, whose crest is too broad for many to fathom. That’s the long answer. The short answer is, Evolution was a Bad Idea.
Describe your involvement with the punk band Ism and your contributions to their album Pocketfull Of Poseurs.
Jism from the band Ism is another lifer on the scene. He’s been kicking it around for a very long time, and has travelled in extensive circles – for example, he’ll be featured in an upcoming documentary on Tiny Tim. Jism has a highly infectious personality, and a work ethic bordering on the fanatic, so it stood to reason we’d end up encountering one another. We first hit it off at the A7 Reunion show at Knitting Factory in 2008, which was largely organized by Wendy Eager, who herself was woven into the fabric of the whole NYHC scene, and whose groundbreaking zine Guillotine continues in online form. Jism and I kept running into each other, and, when he was having issues with his then current lineup, I offered him a spot playing keys in Iconicide. Jism, of course, was classically trained at Julliard, but his performances with Iconicide are total joyous chaos. There was one show he played with us at Tompkins Square Park, where he invited a group of kids – some of them the children of band members – on stage to play along. Another time, Aerik Von booked us at Santo’s Party House right after two technical Metal bands, and our set, for which Jism played a cameo, blew people right out of their comfort zones.
Whatever people make of his personality, there’s that pragmatism about Jism, which I’d also noted with Chris Flash. And so, whenever we’d be around, he’d seek me out for advice, knowing that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything, or tell him something just because I thought he wanted to hear it. So when he told me he was working on two new albums, the first of which was Pocketfull of Poseurs, I let him know I’d be available to assist in whatever way possible. That turned into me doing the graphics for the album’s front cover, and producing a full length lyric video for the album; which incorporates preexisting pro videos for a few of the songs. Other than that, we’re sounding boards for one another, and help out however we can. Jism is also a reoccurring satellite member of Iconicide, so don’t be surprised when you see him on stage with us again.
Your latest full length Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! brims with angst directed at a society that has grown worse in regards to what we have discussed. For starters, Just Dead Bodies shows a contrast between your youth and your experiences in New York, and shows how gentrification has affected the scene. How does this song set the tone of the album?
I suffer no angst whatsoever. Angst arises from a feeling of being lost, and a belief that, if only such and such would happen, then that angst would be relieved. I, however, have my entire life been completely hopeless regarding “Human Nature.” I learned as a child that nothing good lasts, and felt a bitter sweet yearning when passing through NYC’s abandoned and derelict spaces. My earliest and most pronounced appreciation of this was during the summer of 1977, when my hometown of Bushwick, Brooklyn sustained a catastrophic blackout, during which large sections of the neighborhood burned to the ground. Riding the (elevated) M train from Manhattan back towards home on a summer evening, I would look out at the charred and leveled wasteland, and marvel at its unspeakable beauty. It was as if the ugly mask of the City had been stripped away, and I finally saw it for what it really was. I wanted so much to absorb the sensation of being in that moment. I knew with absolute certainty that the best thing to do, would be to let it lay, to let it die a natural death, and experience rebirth on its own terms. But I knew people would be too damned stupid. They’d come along and build something bigger, more convoluted, and more corrupt.
I wrote Just Dead Bodies one night while walking down Avenue A, near Tompkins Square Park. I had just run into Jim Simopolous, one of the fellas who assists at shows in the Park, and he invited me to some sort of party at a treehouse space on 5th Street and Avenue C. First off, I’ve never been into partying for its own sake, but as soon as we parted ways, I tried to picture that street corner, and realized that I couldn’t. And I thought, “I’ve got no reason to go to 5th and C.” Then I looked around me at the swirling sea of soulless hipsters, drug addicted lemmings perpetually jonesing for a fix of factory raised fun. And it turned my stomach. They were all the damned same, dead on their feet and not even knowing it. Just Dead Bodies. It repulsed me. And so I thought, “Just dead bodies on the streets for me.” It was a good thing I found a scrap of paper in my pocket, because a few blocks later, I had a song.
We open Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! with Just Dead Bodies for a number of reasons. One of them is, we begin the song by paying our respects to Shane Keogh, without whom an album like this could never have come about. Shane had a childhood which, in its way, was as bleak as my own, and in addition to he and I sharing a lot of the same scars, he was similarly beholden to the Truth. He saw the value in what I was doing with Iconicide, and he considered it an honor to be a part of it. My first take on Shane when I initially met him was of a doomed soul, and I wanted so much to be able to tour and record with him. I refer to him again in the last verse, with the line, “Now my Brothers and Sisters who Rest In Peace,” and the second, live half of the album is comprised of songs from some of our best live performances with him in the band.
The songs following the album’s first track urge the listener to think on a deeper level and search for something real in the world. I got this from your song 99 Per Cent Crap that reads “If you look deep inside, you just might find something real/But I doubt it.” There is also something about your lyrics that seem easy for people to relate to. How much of an effort do you make to present your lyrics in an honest way?
I wrote that song in 1994 for Jim Knipfel, whom I’d met through his column Slackjaw, which had been featured in the free weekly paper NY Press. Jim is an intelligent misanthrope with a darkly humorous grasp on reality (and retinitis pigmentosa), and I immediately recognized him as a kindred spirit. One week in his column, he was ranting about people’s cavalier stupidity, when he said that, basically, everything boiled down to around 99% Crap. I’d written songs for other people (and bands) before (and since), and it was one of those minor epiphanies that had me giggling for weeks afterwards. I’m pretty certain he has at least one of the demos that song is on, but he’s never been to one of our shows. It’d be very cool to get back in touch with him.
As I’ve alluded, my childhood was absolutely horrendous. And I saw no escape in the idea of drugs, or of suicide. Or, in turn, in any form of dissemblance or obfuscation. All that existed was the Truth; like it or lump it. I’ve seen the easy gains people around me have achieved by spinning webs of lies, but I could never bring myself to live that way. Yeah, in comparison to others, I may not have much, but I know that everything I do have is real. So, to answer your question, I do not make any special effort at all to render any of my lyrics relatable to a target audience. All I do, all I ever do, is to speak the Truth, and damn the Consequences. And if people allow themselves to appreciate them for what they are, cool.
Your song Suicidal from Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! depicts the daily existence of someone rejected everywhere he goes. Was this your own song or a cover?
“Suicidal” is a cover song (it’s in the credits) by a late 80s punk band from Buffalo, NY called Pain Killers, who, I’m pretty sure, only put out one demo. I heard Pat Duncan, whom I consider to be the Patron Saint of Hardcore, play it once over his Thursday night radio show on WFMU (which has since been cancelled), and it immediately struck a nerve. Over the next 20 years, I would pester friends by singing it, in the original vocalist’s laconic style, which resembled that of a bummed out, bored Bay Area surfer or skater dude. The first few times I performed it with Iconicide, I would spontaneously begin singing it to whatever music the band happened to be playing at the time; usually something slow, plodding and rudimentarily bluesy. And bit by bit, that bored, lazy surfer voice slipped further down into a pit of despair.
The version of “Suicidal” that appears on Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! is completely live, and completely unrehearsed. The incarnation of Iconicide which appears on that album is something that has never existed as such before, nor since. After Shane Keogh died, our guitarist Jeremy moved to Mexico to teach English, and he was only back in NY for a week during winter break; therefore he had no time for preparatory rehearsal, and had to cram on the track list – including songs he had never heard before – by listening to and reading emailed scratch rehearsal MP3s and cheat sheets. When he came in to record the album, it was understood that there were no do overs. This would not be recorded like a normal album, with takes and tracking and overdubs over multiple sessions. We had 10 hours to set up, record the first 9 songs (the other 7 are live, with Shane), and start mixing and mastering. So what you hear on the studio portion of that album is Iconicide, raw and uncut, first and only full take, beyond a brief partial run through of the structure of each song before it was recorded, and gang vocal added that day. And for the record, Reed Black at Vinegar Hill Sound in Brooklyn was a perfect choice as engineer – Laid Back and On Point at the same time. He hooked us up right, and just let us loose.
For “Suicidal,” there was no such run through. And since we’d agreed to play it as a Blues song, I wanted my vocal delivery to be my take on the Blues. Not the, oh woe is me, my baby left me, and all I’ve got is this here bottle Blues, but the style of Blues I was born to – Scorched Earth Blues – which runs more along the lines of, my flesh is melting off my bones, I’m trying my damnedest to keep my intestines from spilling out of my body, but before I die a horrible excruciating death, I’m going to speak my piece, and you have no choice at all but to listen. I needed it to be honest. I have a close friend, whom I’ve known for around 30 years, who has gone through severe and prolonged bouts of depression, and his response upon hearing it was, “So you’ve had days like that too?”
What show were the live tracks on Give Me Extinction… recorded from? What do you remember of that show to this day?
The live portion of Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! is assembled from some of the best live performances, from different shows and venues, with Shane Keogh on bass. I’d always said I wanted to record with Shane, and he died before I could afford to go into the studio with him. So really, it’s more what I remember about Shane. Shane “got” Iconicide in a way few others have. When he was learning our material, he’d refuse to take shortcuts, and would curse his hands if they didn’t get part of a song right. And on stage, there was that quality of commitment and joyous mayhem; that would have him biting one of Maj’s cymbals while he was playing, or ramming my head into his bass as an improvised wrestling angle. And Shane understood the concept of Iconicide, down to my always putting our banner down on the floor or the stage, so people could walk all over it. And off stage, he was one of the most stand up individuals I have ever known.
Currently, we play mainly as a 3 piece, with me holding down bass and vocals, but as I am often heard to say, I am a poor substitute for Shane. Really, I have no business at all holding a musical instrument; I should be off the stage, on the floor, working the crowd, and bashing my head into things. If anyone out there reads this as a casting call for accomplished, versatile and available musicians, then you are absolutely right. And we don’t mind whether it’s full or part time.
Your song Bout Fucking Time from Jesus Corpse: DNR is about breaking away from situations that are detrimental or destructive, at any cost. On the live album you say this song is an anthem for the band. How so?
I wrote Bout Fucking Time at the tail end of a toxic relationship. This individual, whom my life had begun to revolve around, had wormed her way into nook and cranny. And I, against my better judgment, kept making allowances and excuses, believing whole heartedly that I was the one fucking up, that all I had to do was invest myself more completely in the relationship, set to rights what faults I’d been called on, and all would be smooth sailing. Of course that never happened, and things inexorably became worse, until one night at around 2 a.m., the inevitable argument reached a crescendo, and she screamed, “Well, if you don’t like it, take your stuff and GET OUT!!” …and so, I did.
I realized that that argument was just what I needed, and that people allow themselves, in their lives, to carry the burden of a toxic situation, way past its shelf life, because they allow themselves to get locked into that way of thinking; it’s that old yarn, “Better the Devil you Know, than the Devil you Don’t Know.” Few people either have that opportunity, of a toxic partner yelling at them to get out, or allow themselves to hear it when it presents itself. Staying the Course does have its merits, if the situation is healthy; but turning a blind eye to warning signs benefits no one. If it’s a job, a relationship, or any other situation, sometimes it’s both healthy and necessary to cut one’s losses, and stop jumping off the same damned cliff, just for the comfortable, familiar sensation of hitting rock bottom.
Workers Of The World… Fuck Off!! is another song included on Jesus Corpse: DNR. It sounds anthemic in its songwriting and musicianship. Explain how the lyrics relate to the working classes in the U.S.?
The song does not deal with the USA in particular; rather, it addresses work itself as a phenomenon. Back to humanity’s quest for obliteration, the advent of “work” in itself marks the divorce between productive acts, and the fruits of one’s labor. People no longer hunt for what they need. There is a mythological intermediary called money, or some other disembodied concept of value, through which that work disappears, only to be magically replaced by things we have not produced, which we are educated to believe that we need. This of course demands a degree of faith in such an ephemeral institution, but it also requires a measure of mental fracturing, and of willful complicity. The words “Demon” and “Diamond” share the same root, but that’s a topic for another time.
Look at it this way. The Pyramids were built by generations of slaves, however they are not referred to as slaves, as it is believed they were treated well. What remains is they were born, lived and died serving the Pharaoh, and a life in servitude is the same, by any other name. And it was of no significance; that they did so happily, to serve someone they believed to be a living god. They lived only to serve.
Essentially, we today are no different. The money we use is a promissory note, alleged to hold equivalent value to bars of silver (which is where the S in $ comes from) held in reserve, which itself only has value by rumor. The modern assembly line type workplace, in which specialization is key, was modeled after a slaughterhouse, where no one individual was responsible for the dismemberment of a full and living being, but nevertheless, at the end of the line, were untold numbers of neatly butchered body parts. As works with execution by firing squad, no one did it; because no one individual did it. The act was rendered impersonal, non human. Nothing to become invested in. Just routine.
There is something deeply dehumanizing about performing repetitive, soulless acts for compensation determined by some alien entity, who exists as the greatest arbiter over whether, and how, we are to live. This isn’t a communist standpoint, because the Workers Seizing the Means of Production, only translates to dying by self inflicted gunshot, rather than firing squad.
The song Workers of the World = Fuck Off! originated as a tagline I came up with, for a show the band the Ray Gradys brought Iconicide in on at Otto’s Shrunken Head on Mayday of 2009. No one had thought to come up with a flyer, so I drew a picture of a mohawked skeleton bearing a black flag, with stereotypical Circle A, which was going up in flames. The whole concept of a worker’s revolt, and the revolt not being over whether anyone should have to work in the first place, struck me as funny (here’s where I tell people to look up someone by the name of Bob Black). After that, I simply had to write that song, and it pretty much wrote itself. We regularly rotate it into our live set, and TJ likes it a lot; because, thanks to my comparison of the modern impersonal workplace to a Labor (Concentration) Camp, I get to quote Adolf Hitler in a punk song, with the lyric, “Work will Set you Free.”
Name Your Price starts with the lyric “Time has come for you to sell out/Sellout time is here/Time for you to commit suicide/To further your career.” What is the song meant to reflect upon, and how does it fit the band’s stance on selling out to the norm?
I wrote that song around when I was getting ready to start college. I had been kicked out of public school midway through second grade, spent the rest of my schooling up until graduation in Special Ed, and here I was, being offered three complete scholarships, to Baruch, Hunter and NYU. I had been largely self educated; by, for example, cutting school and going to the library, and I equated higher education with walking the plank. Employers primarily prefer applicants to be college graduates, because they willingly suck up the opinions of others, and jump through conceptual and behavioral hoops, without the need for any truant officer or hall monitors. To quote Steg Von Heintz from the band School Of Violence, “People take on the role of police officer themselves by internalizing limitations.” Once individuals have taken the step of willfully bending their minds to justify a perceived gain, no coerced programming is needed.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what milieu one subsumes oneself to. It could be a job, a country, a cult, a spouse, a drug, an army, a god, or any other construct. Anything at all can be used as an excuse to kick the wheels off the trailer. At their essence, each of these is fundamentally the same, because they all demand the suspension of the Individual. Hitler said that he learned a lot from christianity, and Born Againers openly refer to “Killing the Self Daily.” Stormtroopers are terrifying because they are the perfect slaves; they have truly given themselves up to what they believe in.
In regards to Iconicide “Selling Out,” I don’t see that as a possibility, primarily because we’re not on a mission to collect fans, or to build “Crews” of people whose only distinction is that they idolize us.
Higher Forms Of Murder, like many songs recorded by punk bands since the 80s, describes the possibility of war in an urgent and near alarming manner. How does this song reflect events of the last ten years or so?
On the album, I introduce this as “a very happy song,” which it is. The lyrics are a celebration, not a warning. I wrote that song in 1985, after reading the book A Higher form of Killing: the Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare, by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman. With all the hysteria over nuclear war, I thought wiping out a huge percentage of the population with minimal destruction would be a pretty cool idea. I still feel we’re spending way too much on the military, in the interest of forestalling the inevitable. It’s a run on joke with no punch line.
I liked those lines from Go To Hell that read “Dazzle me with bullshit and you say you’re living right/That’s the kind of crap that keeps you up alone at night.” I think there is a lot of truth to those lyrics in relation to conformity and materialism. What inspired this?
Watching people play the same old game of patting themselves on the back, by championing an atmosphere of self aggrandizement and stagnation, and allowing hero worship to enter into the “scene,” to the point where it resembles what High School must be like. People who consider themselves to be adults, willfully participating in sandbox bullshit. It’s completely unnecessary, and has nothing to do with what counterculture is allegedly about. I find myself watching it from the outside, and it is terrifically underwhelming. The song is a bit deeper than that, but that does it for those two lines.
Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! struck me as being about man’s exploitation of the earth leading to his downfall: “The time has come our time is through/It’s time to die for me and you/There’s no more air here left to breathe/Come on right now it’s time to leave.” What is the intended meaning of this song?
People aren’t really that stupid. They know we’ll burn this planet out, the more resources we use, and so we measure wealth by how responsible we are for its demise.
The band is releasing their full lengths on the independent label All Rites Perverse. Is this label owned by you and the band, or did you pursue a singing from them? Who else is signed with them?
All Rites Perverse is basically a self imprint, which stemmed from something I used to include on the inside back cover of all my zines. No Copyrights Claimed, No Profits Gained, All Rites Perverse. Rather than a label, it’s an umbrella, under which I’ve included any official releases, including SickWorld! And it came into existence pretty much by default; because no label would touch us. I sent some tracks from Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! to In Effect Hardcore, and they refused to even review it, because, from the standpoint of what currently considers itself to be Hardcore, they could only come up with bad things to say about it. As for other bands, if and when we assemble a crew of talented musicians, I may put out a studio album by Iconicide’s Hip Hop spinoff act DABUMRUSHKREW. We certainly have enough material.
How much material in all is there for DABUMRUSHKREW? Has this project been around for some time?
DABUMRUSHKREW began, again, by default. I’d written my first Hip Hop track, “Time To Unite,” in 1990, in response to a line in West Coast Rap All Stars’ song, We’re All in the Same Gang, which referred to “Keeping the smile off the white face!” My grandparents settled in Bushwick right before the Depression. My mom never had it easy, and, thanks to my Dear Dead Dad, neither did I. I found it a bit hypocritical; so I wrote a track about self defeatist tactics I’d seen, like rappers wearing thick, heavy gold chains, when, due to poor safety and other conditions, miners in Africa were dying at the rate of one for every pound of gold produced. At the time, it was just me, so I made a loop of the opening drums to “Death and Taxes” by Nihilistics, and rapped over it. And I kept writing. When Maj Da Beast first joined the band in 1992, Iconicide resembled a freeform Jazz/Blues/Metal/Industrial band, and we agreed that, at any time during a live performance, we would spontaneously Bumrush our own performance and break into our Hip Hop alter egos.
DABUMRUSHKREW are at once a bugout on Oldschool/Gangsta Rap, and an homage to it. Though we did briefly have a dedicated lineup, most often it has been me hijacking existing lineups for Iconicide, and us using odd moments of chaos to hit the audience with something unexpected. And around half of our recorded material – two demos’ worth (“Droppin Science Off A Cliff” and “Straight Outta Nowhere”) came from similarly hijacking Iconicide rehearsals. I’ve given every individual associated with DABUMRUSHKREW, a moniker that’s at least a veiled insult; from DJ Catvomit, to MC Snot, to DJ Hockey Puck, to Mista Jiffy Pop Hat. Even Maj became DJ All That, because I knew he’d try to use it to blow his head up.
Most of DABUMRUSHKREW’s live performances have either been Bumrushes of Iconicide sets, or standalone sets for which the music been almost entirely improvised. In fact, DABUMRUSHKREW have, so far, only played one show for which we wrote and rehearsed music in advance. That was less than two months before Shane died, with Jeremy performing as MC Rehab aka DJ Relapse, and Shane performing as DJ Fall Down. And we’d revived the original plan of using DABUMRUSHKREW to mess with people’s heads, by taking the stage as Iconicide, and finishing as DABUMRUSHKREW, or vice versa.
It would double our bookability, and keep our audience on their toes; and anyway, we found the parameters of the “scene,” with all its mini fiefdoms, to be restrictive. It would be great to bring that material out again, and we’ll definitely introduce it to members of Iconicide who prove versatile enough.
You played two 28th anniversary shows last December, one at Fat Baby and one at Otto’s Shrunken Head. How would you recall these shows for people who missed them?
I would instruct them to log onto the Iconicide Youtube Channel and see them, and over 300 other videos, including a growing number of complete shows, for themselves.
I had wondered if you had any thoughts about the future of the U.S. in light of the 2016 presidential election. Do you have any views about how it will affect the country or are you waiting to see what happens?
Oh, I know what will happen. People, for the previous generation or two, have been bred with a steadily dwindling sense of history. As a whole, people in this country are so easily led, it’s laughable. Any protest and rioting I’ve seen has been spotty and unfocused, even on a grand scale, or as “together” as people have claimed. Dissent is relegated to Off Hours, where it will not significantly financially impact the System which protestors rail against. So it’s all theater. They’ll whoop and holler, but still punch back in on time come Monday morning, in support of the system they protest against. Yes, I ran with a group of people who were set on accomplishing things, and were committed enough to make them happen. But right now people by and large are too concerned with protecting their own piece of the pie, to make any real impact. That would demand a perpetual state of counter siege, in which widespread dissent becomes the norm, rather than something people do in their spare time.
What I see happening is a continued concentration of power, wealth and influence, with the public willing participants, complicit in the death of their own personal sovereignty. And I see the continued demonization of anyone who truly rocks the boat; because any true Awakening is, by necessity, a Rude one.
Is Iconicide planning to record a new full length album in the near future? Is there any new material you’re working on?
Iconicide are always planning to record; I have around 300 songs still in reserve, across several genres, and am writing more. When Shane was alive, I had the next three albums all planned out. After Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death! would be our Metal album, originally titled Iron Christ, in deference to the MD based thrash band of the same name, but the working title will now be Walk Towards the Light – I’m speaking, of course, about the light of an atomic explosion.
Iconicide have long been partially disowned by the local punk “scene,” because, mixed into our polyglot of styles, our material has Metal overtones; and so I’d decided to include a large chunk of our Metal songs on the same album. Included will be Stoner Metal songs like “Top Of The Charts,” Doom Metal like “Defenders Of The Faith, Blindest Of The Blind,” Biker Metal like “Suffer This,” Deathrock like “Cicatrice,” Industrial Metal like “Going Going Gone,” and even Joke Metal like “Fried Justice” and “Kiss It Up To God,” and Joke Metalcore like “Breakdown For No Reason.” What we lack right now is the personnel. Which again, underscores the importance of showing respect in deeds. So you like what you hear/see/read? So you say we inspire you? Put us on a show. Turn us on to a solid venue. Even pick up an instrument and learn our material. We’re far from conventional, but we stand by our word.