Heartattack Issue#35

pushead july 2002 ken heartattack interview

• You've been involved with the hardcore scene since nearly it's
inception-with various levels of involvement over the years , what are the
things that draw you back to it? Musically? Politically?

----It’s definitely the music, but i have never been drawn away from it,
it’s part of me and always will be. when you figure that hardcore has been
around for more than 20 years, and if a person has been active within the so
called ‘scene’ for that long of a time, there is a lot of memories, friends,
and great music. i think hardcore has been good for people who want to
accomplish something. in the beginning, there were no guidelines, perhaps
just this unspoken word that defined what it was that we all were doing. what
that was, i couldn’t tell you. but then there were those who decided that
some ‘rules’ needed to be set, and those ‘rules’ have always been
confusing, without being said. someone decided this should be an outlet,
while others disagreed. it divided camps, and something that brought people
together, also divided them. music brought the people in and some other force
inside the scene was responsible for drawing those same people away. there
are so many strong views and opinions within the hardcore scene, sung within
a song or written on paper, some are brutally honest and others could be
considered diatribe. from insightful knowledge to head scratching ignorance,
with so many emotions and beliefs present within this hardcore movement,
sometimes the reality of it scares people, but the songs never linger far
from their minds.

•But some would argue that "RULES", "GUIDELINES" and creating a standard of
Ethics are progressive-and necessary to be forward thinking, inclusive of
radical out of the mainstream politics or what not- Do you see hardcore as
something that should inherently be progressive?

----progressive to what? since i am speaking about what happened in the past,
these so called people who came in with 'rules' or 'guidelines', cared mostly
about their values, or what they thought something should be. they did not
care if they alienated people or excluded anyone. they felt that the battle
that they wanted to wage, should be everyone's battle, and if you were not a
soldier you didn't belong. personal hate or hatred of something came to the
forefront, and this turned a lot of people away. keep in mind a majority of
these people who left, were intellegent, creative people with strong ideas
and beliefs. it is not like they were 'weak', they just got tired of butting
heads with ideals that had nothing to do with the whole, but were faced with
a war against personal vengence....that was not their fight. like everything
in human society, there are extremeties, the same thing happened and
continues to happen in this scene. it can make it interesting and it can make
it come undone. when something comes undone, there is seperation. if on a
basic scale, you figure that a seperation divides a group into 2 different
factions with the same belief, but a different goal and these two factions
continue to promote the same ideals, it can create confusion....especially
for outsiders or those who are new to the scene. perhaps, to a certain
degree, hardcore has become no different than modern day religion? centered
around a belief, the concept continues to spawn based on changing ideals and
extremeties, to the point were a dividing line has been drawn based on the
same concept. the difference of the two, is one is desperate to pull you in,
and the other would rather you leave. an idiotic theory?

• what do you define as Hardcore anyway, it's meaning has evolved and
changed so much to so many different people.

----anymore i couldn’t tell you what the label hardcore represents. to a
certain degree it’s no different than political parties, who battle it out
with their opposing opinions and views. there are certain factors that i have
always felt never belonged in hardcore, but they exist there today. it
becomes confusing when bands who are nowhere near anything that is hardcore,
write press releases or have their records reviewed and there are mentions of
‘hardcore roots’ or says rubbish like ‘hardcore influence’
when you cannot hear it anywhere in the music. it’s like some kind of
marketing tool....and i would have never guessed hardcore would be used that
way, in the mainstream world that at one time laughed at what we were doing.
yet there is this strange side to hardcore that’s hard to deny. and that’s
when you ask people, how they got into hardcore music? and 8 times out of 10,
they usually give you the same answer....they listened to some band that was
supposed to be ‘hardcore’, liked the sound and wanted to hear more, and
experimented further, to the point were they became someone who is a major
supporter of good hardcore music. and depending on each person, it affects
their lives somehow, whether it’s thinking, fashion, or whatever. in the
beginning there was a lot of interaction, because the scene was so small and
neophyte in it’s origins, but now it’s grown beyond that, almost out of
control, and i think that frustrates a majority of the people, who think of
it at a certain level only. so how do you define something now, that one day
soon, might be no different than the definiton of ‘rock’?

•But do you feel for that reason that Hardcore shouldn't be afraid to knock
heads with the mainstream- in terms of promoting itself, distribution or
work towards goals would then be to create it's own structure as far from the
mainstream as possible in terms of distribution of records, promotion,
manufacture etc,etc? I see the relation of Hardcore as commenting on
mainstream society from an outside perspective and it cannot exist
compeltely seperate from it..or you just get songs about the scene and
record collectors-do you agree?

----ken, it seems that you are more asking yourself this question, than in
the context of this interview. maybe i can help your confusion. who created
this enemy ‘mainstream’? does anyone look at the reason something becomes
mainstream, just a lot of finger pointing, once it does. no matter what the
plan or path of a band is, once they create the music and lyrics, the ball
begins rolling. people hear it and they seek it out, we all know the ways
that this occurs. on rare occasions, hardcore bands start to go to levels
they never dreamed of, and start to step into the mainstream, because what
they have created is now in demand. so the laws of supply and demand come
into effect. now they ask the question of how do they control something that
might be getting out of control? still there does exist a mainstream attitude
within the hardcore community, that is not acknowledged....basically from
those who will pillage from others for their own gain. some call this
'supporting their scene', or others say 'it's nessecary'. whenever someone
knocks off a shirt, button, sticker, etc of their favorite band, they are
selling something to the masses, a sort of promotion that is backfiring if
the person is against popularity contests. when people see such products it
encourages them to get something also, and so it begins. if a band from the
hardcore scene makes such products and makes the profits from it, in some cases,
it is seen as bad. but if someone else does it, it's not percieved the
same way. no matter who does it, the goods that represent something are being
put out there, and demand can be created, if the people so desire. if
hardcore could control it's own, which it is trying to do in some ways, would
be favorable....but at the same time others would say, it's becoming what
they don't want it to be. the hardest arguement here would have to be, that
hardcore can't just be a hobby for some people and a real business for
others....while each party is pointing figures at each other, accusing them
of something that is against this supposed hardcore ethic.

•having been involved with music scenes on many different levels is there
something different you find in the hardcore scene that keeps you close to

----if anything, it has been a great learning experience. there is so much
knowledge available within the hardcore movement.

• a lot of the '80's records you illustrated the covers for, or the band
you sang for Septic Death, are now considered "classics"-is there room for
that in Hardcore ?

----what kind of trick question is this ken? haha. it goes back to the length
of time that something has existed. it wasn’t created to be a ‘classic’, and
the possibility that someone will enjoy what is created was my hope. sure
there is a place for so-called ‘classics’ in hardcore, good music is good
music....good art is good art, regardless of the genre. only the test of time
proves whether or not something is a ‘classic’.

•Well, true, But I feel in many ways Hardcore (and more specifically Punk)
was created to fill a void, and maybe that void , that niche is filled now,
but it also seems even in the early 1980's conservatism about Punk and
hardcore had already set in-clear definitions of what was "punk" or
"hardcore" in terms of style, content, dress,etc...Rules like you mentioned
before-for something that was actually defining itself at the time and
relatively new... Do you think there's a balance between what can be learned
and leaving room for innovation? For example, the whole retro trip of the
last few years has really bummed me out because I see it as really
unimaginative....energetic and fun, yes, but no ideas I can’t already reach
into my record collection and get...

....too bad it's bummed you out and i don’t think people have such ‘record
collections’ hahaha. the process of recycling is common in culture whether
mainstream or underground. it builds a new base for those who are new to the
sound and brings new life to something from the past. when certain people
hear this second generation, there will be new spurts of creativity, that
will build on the sound. it really shouldn't be looked at negatively. perhaps
you need to look back at the heyday of what was originally called 'punk' 1977
kicked out some of the most influential bands for the coming generations.
bands were crawling out of the woodwork, and labels were signing them up just
as quick. the attention and enthusiasm for this sound kept growing. then one
day, like the stock market, it crashed. bands disappeared or became something
not related with what was started originally. not that the sound was bad, it
just wasn't the same. and after the smoke cleared, a new birth, sort of,
emmerged. look at what came from that. it was those small bands in little
scenes, all over the world that kept this sound alive, while pushing it to
new limits. perhaps the second generation was influenced by the first
generation, then the third generation was influenced by the second, until it
all comes around and so on. as each new generation is introduced one
particular way, and will make discoveries over time, whether past or present,
about the history, whether they like it or not. but i don’t think ‘punk’ or
‘hardcore’ was ever created to fill a void....as i don’t think that anyone
who was ever involved with it in the beginning would acknowledge that such a
void might exist. so the void can never be filled, and the innovation or
motivation will always exist. it is probably more up to us to continue the
path, instead of wasting time looking down on something that might be keeping
hardcore in existance and ready to bloom anew.

•How do you feel about the recent trend of re-issues, legitimate or not?
Is it counterproductive?

----hardcore definitely has a cult following, and with age, people are turned
on to what once was and how it influenced the current crop. how people are
going about releasing things can be an issue. there is a definite need for
certain things to exist, but it should be the songwriters decision on if or
who releases it. recently there seems to be a trend of releasing material
based on monetary value, especially if something is commanding high dollar on
the secondary market. just because there might be 50 people who will pay a
high amount for something, doesn’t mean there is a resurgance for that
record. the bands who might have originally put out the record might have
went through a lot of difficulties and sales weren’t the best. because of
that, they might not really want to jump into the boat again, if they feel it
sank or took on water before....just to go through it all again. still, there
should be some kind of respect for the band and what they accomplished, it
shouldn’t be destroyed by someone else’s opinion of what they feel needs to
be done. from the beginning to now, i really don’t think any hardcore band
ever thinks that their music might be the subject of some revival or to be
bootlegged in anyway. the one thing about hardcore is the facing of reality,
there is no illusions of grandeur that a hardcore record will sell 5 to 6
figures. if those individuals want to do that, i think they’ll go to another
genre of music. it’s like the ‘classic’ quote from an infamous hardcore
guitarist which goes something like....since i’ve now learned how to play,
why would i want to continue by playing hardcore?

•What do you mean by secondary market?

----the market after the product is originally sold to a consumer. and the
price no longer reflects the original retail price, whether high or low.

--counterproductive? perhaps in this way....someone has the rights to a
classic hardcore record, but won’t release it because they need to get all
the members permission and it’s difficult. but at the same time, they
release another classic hardcore record as a bootleg, which they didn’t get
permission for, nor did they have the rights to. distributors and stores pick
it up and sell it, usually on the pretense of, there is a demand for it...but
at the same time, it takes away from new bands trying to get their record out
there. this can be damaging if the new band is unknown, and the booted band
is one that has a high priced collectible tag on it, and people are buying
the record for the presumption of it’s worth, rather than it’s sound. of
course the catch-22 here would be, if years from now, this unknown bands
record was now a high priced collectible, because it’s so hard to find.

•Do you see it as "youth Culture"?

----no. it’s a wide spread culture with people of all ages involved. and
oddly enough the stongest people of the scene are the ones you might never
see. since they are the ones who buy the music, or put out the records, or
make the zines, etc. so age makes no difference. it might have started out as
mostly young people, but all of us have grown up and older.

• •What kind of mistakes do you see people of that original era following that
are still happening now ?

---- hypocrisy. suffering. guilt.

• what kind of successes of that early hardcore era do you see people not
living up to or surpassing?

----personally, i don’t think when hardcore evolved, there was anything to
live up to or surpass. this was new terroritory being broken. if you’re
thinking on the lines of springa saying ‘hardcore is dead’, or sakevi
recently proclaiming ‘punk is dead’....i don’t think this is true in either
case. it just has changed and as time went by, influences from what was past
mixed in with what was current, fueled a sort of an evolution. the new blood
kept out the stagnation, as people walked away. hardcore was and is a brutal
sound, there is a beauty to it if it catches your ear, but different people
over time who are or were part of the scene, decided it should be more (or
less). and of course not everyone agreed. these interjections had positive
and negative reactions within the scene. it’s really no different than basic
human behavior that goes on in every day life, but i think a lot of people
‘thought’ hardcore was something away from that, especially people who were
there from the beginning. it’s not like they curled their tails inward and
ran away, it’s more like it was something they did not want to deal with,
perhaps they came into the scene to get away from dogs barking and growling,
and here it was, again, unleashed and ready to bite.
but the one thing that has to be acknowledged, no matter what, is that there
was a small group of individuals, throughout the world, who strived to create
something, in an extra ordinary way in the beginning, and whether they walked
away from it or not, the gears of this ‘movement’ were built and started
turning, and continue today, stronger than before. the ideas and ideals were
a success.

• In the 1980's there was such a crop and variety of now considered classic
punk artists-Yourself, Shawn Kerri, Jaime Hernandez, Raymond Pettibone, Mad
Marc Rude, and more, why do you think there have been few standout artist
in the punk scene since the early 1980s? Or are there people we're missing?

----actually there have been a great number of good artists in the hardcore
scene. squeal, vince rancid, sean taggart, tom, sugi, etc. maybe what is
happening is a lot of the early artists just gave their stuff away to help
friends, and because of what the scene was, it was done more in support. but
now, with seeing what has happened, more of these artists need to also
support themselves. so it’s harder for people to pay this newer breed of
artist, since they are working on a low budget to begin with. and people just
cut and paste something they see in a magazine, something that they can cop,
rather than pay. not really original, especially when more than one band
swipes the same image. it can definitely be a proving ground for young
artists, and it would be great if there was more exposure. with you asking a
question like this, i guess you feel there is not enough illustrations that
are worthy to be recognised. a lot of artists write and ask how they can get
started, get the chance. the toughest thing to say is, sometimes it’s just
the right place at the right time.

•In the 1980's a lot of your original artwork for these "classic records"
was never returned, what advice or guidelines or ideas would you recommend
for labels, artists and bands in regards to the treatment of

----first, would be never send anyone the original. back then, for me it
couldn’t be helped. i couldn’t afford to get a photo stat or color
transparancy made. and xerox machines weren’t of the quality they are today,
nor was there a computer to scan an image. guidelines....that list would be
long, since i’ve learned from making mistakes.

•What are your favorite Hardcore records past and present?

----past (pre 1990): discharge (first 3 7”ers), gang green (tracks on ‘this
is boston not LA’), ssdecontrol ‘kids will have their say’ 12”, anti-sect
‘in darkness...’ 12”, anti-cimex ‘raped ass’ 7”, minor threat ‘filler’
7”, subhumans ‘demolition war’ 7”, huvudtvatt 7”, gism ‘detestation’ 12”,
poison idea ‘pick your king’ 7”, antidote ‘thou shall not kill’ 7”
----present (1990- ): citizens arrest ‘a light..’7”, union of uranus 2 x
7”, substandard (everything), devoid of faith ‘commodified people’ 10”,
drop dead 'hgfact' cd, tragedy both lps, uncurbed ‘punks on parole’ lp,
acursed ‘a facist...’ lp, from ashes rise cd, bastard ‘no hope in here’ cd,
victims ‘neverendinglasting’ cd