Up next in our "20 Questions With... " series is and interview with Anthony Drago, drummer for NYHC greats Breakdown and Killing Time. With 30 plus years of drumming in hardcore bands under his belt it was a safe bet to assume Anthony might have a good story or two... or more! Read on!
Thanks to JC Photo Media for the photos and John Franko for the graphic work.
1: Where exactly are you right now and what would you usually be doing around this time if you weren't answering these questions?
Anthony: I’m at home in my make shift office on a landing between the second and third floor of my house, where I can enjoy my own space while keeping an ear out for a 15, 12 and 4 year old. If I wasn’t doing this interview right now, I’d probably be working on someone’s website, wood working in the garage or getting hi-jacked into watching Tik-Tok, YouTube or Scooby Doo cartoons.
2: Just a few months back your long-time friend and bandmate from Killing Time and Breakdown Rich McLoughlin passed away. A common theme I have seen since his passing is that everyone says he had a great sense of humor. With that said can you offer up some better times/vibes, or a cool story that can help convey Rich's humor?
Anthony: Rich was my boy for a long time. He had to struggle with a lot of things throughout his life but when he was around his friends, he was always the most upbeat and the most talkative. His catch phrase was "Did you ever wonder?..." and then he would totally deconstruct some common thing or idea into a myriad of questions, and if you weren't careful, he would suck you into his weird world for a wild ride. There was humor in almost everything Rich had to say. He was a unique human being. He was super quirky and he knew it. He laughed at himself more than anyone else.
"UNCLE" RICH MCLOUGHLIN (R.I.P.) WITH ANTHONY'S DAUGHTER MIA
3: What are your earliest memories of Rich? I believe you first met him when Breakdown was coming together. What were your first impressions of Rich from those old Breakdown days?
Anthony: I met Rich for the first time at the second Breakdown practice we had after I auditioned for the band. Rich couldn’t make the first practice at my parent’s place for some reason, so I was still not officially a member. Jeff, Carl and Don who I had auditioned for and had one practice with, told me that it wouldn’t be official until Rich met me and heard me play. So I was really psyched to meet him. I was pretty confident that I was a good fit for the band but I had heard that Rich was good friends with Lou Alfidi, who was the original drummer, so there was always the chance that something might go wrong for me.
A few songs in, Rich announces that he’s got to take a piss and asks me if he can use the bathroom in the house. Now, Rich had a full blown mohawk at the time and there was no bringing anyone into the house that didn’t first meet my father. My dad was an off-the-boat old school Sicilian. So when we walk in, my dad says “Holy shit! Wha happened your head?” Rich doesn’t miss a beat and says “Oh, it was a bad lawnmower accident. I still can’t do yard work”. This makes my dad laugh, which was a very hard thing to do. Rich joins in with his infectious giggle and I’m thinking, how fucking weird is this shit? As we were walking back to the garage, I couldn’t help myself and I asked Rich if he thought I might make it in the band. He said, “Everything is sounding real good, I’d say you’re in already.” I was so fucking psyched. First playing with the guys back then, I couldn’t help but feel like the outsider, Rich helped me out with that a lot. They all gave each other a rash of shit too. Rich usually took most of it, but always with a smile on his face. He could dish it out too. His impressions of Don cracked me up for decades.
4: The '87 Breakdown demo is widely considered one of the best NYHC demos of all time. When those songs were being written and coming together did you guys as a group feel like you were on to something that would be considered one of the best ever in any category?
Anthony: I don’t think any of us did. We were just laying down what felt good. I always considered myself fortunate to be writing music with a bunch of guys that were open to each other’s input and criticism. One guy usually came up with the main riff and we would jam on that for a while to hash it out, adjust the tempo and figure out transitions. Everyone had a say. No one was overly judgmental and we all genuinely admired each other’s abilities.
5: At the time of the '87 demos release there were not a lot of NYHC bands that sounded like you guys did. Although crossover was starting to make its way into the scene there were more bands like Warzone, Krakdown, and Youth Of Today leaning more towards a traditional type of hardcore sound. Who or what were some of the biggest influencers on the sound that the Breakdown '87 demo put out there?
Anthony: I felt most natural when we were playing those slow or mid-tempo grooves. It gives me a lot of space to do what I want to do in a song. I think it’s in those times when Breakdown was the fiercest. There was influence there ranging from Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy to Cro-Mags and Celtic Frost. Other bands that I’m sure influenced the overall sound of the band were Crumbsuckers, Agnostic Front, Negative Approach, Minor Threat and Underdog. We all dug Underdog.
6: When you first started finding out about hardcore and going to shows what hardcore drummers were you looking at and getting influenced by?
Anthony: Well, talking about influential drummers for me has always been difficult because there are so many. I have to group them into genres and I would never say that one was better than any other. Everyone has something special about them. As far as hardcore, I’d have to say Mackie Jayson, Earl Hudson, Jeff Nelson, Pete Hines and Tony Fontao. When Mackie played with The Icemen, they used to open up for us and I hated it. I mean, how do you take a seat at the kit and impress anyone after Mackie just played? I also played many shows with talented guys like Dean Iglay, Sammy Siegler, Luke Abbey, Drew Thomas, Jason Martin and Rob Sefcik, to name a few. As far as punk, I’m going with Chuck Biscuits, Bill Stevenson, George Hurley and Lucky Lehrer.
So I don’t turn this into a long list of other drummers that inspired me to play that nobody would want to read, I’ll just say that I learned straight up rock syncopation by imitating Phil Rudd. That’s why I still have a soft spot for AC/DC, even though I completely played out their entire catalog by the time I was 14. I did know basic music theory from playing saxophone in elementary school and I took snare drum in Junior High School for a half semester before they told me that I’d have to join the marching band and wear a maroon jumpsuit and a Stetson. Wasn’t fucking happening. Oh, and I lied when I said that I would never say one drummer is better than any other, John Bonham is better than everybody.
KILLING TIME SINGER ANTHONY COMUNALE. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
7: That Breakdown '87 demo lineup obviously splintered with you forming Raw Deal with Carl and Rich and then brought in Anthony Comunale on vocals. What were your first impressions of Anthony and did you think he would end up being the front man of Raw Deal/Killing Time long term?
Anthony: Anthony tried out for Raw Deal, I think at Carl’s request. Not really sure how that happened, but he did come up to the garage that first time with Mike Sentkewitz which was a surprise to us all. We never discussed adding a second guitarist. As I remember, that first practice was pretty good. We had music and lyrics already written for “Telltale” and I showed Anthony how I thought the lyrics would fit in. Very un-singer like, he said “This is great. I don’t even have to write anything.” I was pretty shocked. It was a win-win situation and he sounded awesome. Best front man ever. His attitude and delivery at our early shows is legend.
8: While setting up these questions I had a few people ask me to bring up Anthony's apparent fear or dislike of getting on an airplane. Was this the reason the late Dave Franklin from Vision was in the band for a few months in the 90s?
Anthony: I think Anthony was into doing the first Euro tour at first but bailed on us a few months before. I don’t think the flying had much to do with it at the time. I think that crept up to haunt us in later years. I really think that he was just not into it at the time. Wasn’t interested. He had other shit to do. I don’t know if it was school or work. I was glad to hear that Dave was interested in coming with us. Dave was a fun guy to be around. We all hit it off well with Dave from the first time we ever played with Vision. I love all the Vision guys. Stand up dudes and great musicians. I miss Dave a lot. The band was drastically different on that tour. Rich had moved to second guitar, Lars Weiss was recruited on bass and now Dave was singing. There was a concern about how the kids would take it. Performance wise - we weren’t great. We could have been more serious about what we brought to Europe. Dave did a great job though.
Touring was nothing like I expected. I don’t know what I expected but that shit wasn’t it. The tour manager didn’t seem to like us very much but he was German, so it was hard to tell. We wore down each other’s last nerve. Rich was extremely paranoid, Lars whined too much, I was overly aggressive and moody as shit and at one point Dave just stopped talking, which was really weird because the only person I’ve ever met that could talk more than Rich was Dave. Carl had a lot of fun though, but Carl could have fun if you were taking pot shots at him with a paintball gun. When I got back from Europe I packed up my drum kit in the attic and had what I think might be considered to be by some, a nervous breakdown.
BACK COVER OF KILLING TIME'S 1989 ALBUM "BRIGHTSIDE".
FROM LEFT: CARL PORCARO, ANTHONY COMUNALE, ANTHONY DRAGO, RICH MCLOUGHLIN
9: Please tell us a little about band practices in your parent’s garage way back with Breakdown and Raw Deal/Killing Time. Can you describe the whole setup and your parent’s acceptance or non-acceptance of the bands practicing there?
Anthony: The garage was detached from the house and was across a small stretch of yard, so noise was never an issue. The garage really wasn’t a garage either. My dad had divided the space when I was little kid. He kept his woodworking equipment on one side and the other side he set up to breed birds. Parakeets mostly. It never really worked out. The place had to be heated constantly and the baby birds had to nursed. It was way too much to handle, so he eventually sold everything.
I took over the bird space when I joined a band in high school. At that point, the garage became a local hangout. We would jam on weekends and people would stop by, bring cases of beer and just watch us play. Everyone would park on the adjacent street and sneak in the back way. You had to wedge yourself through a gap in the fence to get in the back yard and after a while someone broke the fence. My dad was pissed about that. After he fixed it a few times, he said fuck it and he built a gateway so people could just unlock it and walk through. As much as my dad bitched and complained he did a lot to accommodate us playing.
All through the years of Breakdown and Killing Time, he would hold over my head how much he shelled out in electricity, scream about beer cans and “whiskey bottles” left in the space. If he was particularly peeved about something, he would make unexpected appearances during practice to warn everybody about fucking up the grass, leaving garbage or pissing behind the garage. All the dudes would be super respectful and hear him out. He threatened to toss us all out a few times but my mother would always talk him out of it. I grew up in that room and had the best times in that room. It was like an escape pod that I could get into at any time, even after I moved out on my own. When my dad passed and my mom sold the house, I cracked open one last beer in that place and cried like a baby.
FRONT COVER TO KILLING TIME'S 1997 ALBUM "THE METHOD". CLICK IMAGE TO LISTEN/STREAM
10: Blackout Records is reissuing your 1997 album “The Method” for the first time on 12" vinyl as CD’s were still the main thing back in '97 when it came out. “Brightside” is your most popular album and holds the bulk of the songs still played in KT live sets. What are your thoughts on “The Method” 20 something years later?
Anthony: It’s long overdue. I’m glad it will be out again, especially on vinyl. If you ask anyone in the band, they’ll tell you that they favor “The Method” over “Brightside”. People never really gave that record a chance, probably because they were so disgruntled over the “Happy Hour” EP. I don’t regret anything we laid down in the recording studio. “The Method” is ferocious. It’s also disjointed and all over the place, just like my life at the time. “The Method” was the first time that I wrote lyrics before the music was written because I had taken to writing down everything I was feeling back then.
Carl’s writing on that album was amazing. Sean and I were tight as fuck in the studio. Rich contributed the music for “Occupied” which I still think is a killer riff. Anthony raged and Dean Rispler helped us focus all that madness during production. I’m hoping that the re-release exposes more people to the record. It never really had its day back then. (Click HERE to visit Blackout Records' website for ordering info).
11: How did the cover artwork to “Brightside” come together and also the meaning behind it. If the cover reflects the actual lyrics to that song there are many ways you could have presented the cover art
Anthony: The cover art for “Brightside” was a finished piece of work that my brother John had painted before the band existed. It’s oil on canvas and still hangs in my house. I used to see it in my parent’s place and I thought that it really captured what the song “Brightside” is about. “Brightside” wasn’t written purely in negative terms. If anything, the lyrics were meant to inspire someone to never give up on what they want or need, no matter how bleak or impossible things may appear. I can’t think of anything more positive than that.
It seems to me that the old man in the picture is alone, afraid and full of regret. A wasted life. He is the “captive of time”. Whatever is waiting on the other side of the door may be his end or maybe it’s his salvation. Point is, he at least summoned enough courage to open the door. I always wanted to do a contest called “The Other Side of the Door” and have artists create works from the old man’s perspective on what he’s gazing out on. Could be cool... or hilarious.
12: On the door there are the letters “CK”. Is there any significance to those letters?
Anthony: The original painting had nothing on the door and it looked like a big chunk of negative space to me, so I asked my brother to spray paint some graffiti on it. I grabbed a spray paint can and gave it to my brother who was really hesitant about messing up his painting. He nervously agreed to do it and he asked me what he should write and I said, “Let’s give fuck a try".
FRONT COVER TO KILLING TIME'S 1989 ALBUM "BRIGHTSIDE"
KILLING TIME "BRIGHTSIDE" LYRICS
I’ve seen enough of this world
To know what’s good and bad
I don’t want to look back in time
And think of what I could have had
But that same time is breathing down my neck
And I’ve got to hold on
If I lose it all now all hope will be gone
Everyday I say to myself it can't be done
Try to look on the Brightside
Found out there isn’t one
But I’ve got to make it work
Can't bare to live my life with regret
Haunted by memories, never able to forget
Endless minutes and endless hours
Lead on to endless days
If I lose it all now
I know I’ll never be the same
I waited too long for something like this
To come my way
If I lose it all now
There’s only one person to blame
One to cry, one to crawl, one to die, one to fall
Captive of time, never to be free
The one to blame, that one is me
13: The band Wisdom In Chains get their name directly from a song/lyric off of that “Brightside” album. The first time you heard about them and their band name what were your thoughts about it?
Anthony: I have to admit, I thought it was really funny but at the same time was flattered. It is a good name for a band. The lyric, how it’s meant in the song, is about finding out something that you should have known about, but it’s too late, you’re already invested, you’re fucked. It might mean something different for them.
14: You have been playing drums in hardcore bands for well over 30 years now. When you think back over that time what are some things that bring you a sense of pride or accomplishment?
Anthony: I’d say I’m proud of the fact that I can still get on stage or in the studio and do it. It was draining enough when I was 16 years old. I’m probably more proud that people still want to hear it. I love meeting younger kids who tell me about finding out about us from their older siblings or even their mom or dad. I also feel really good when someone tells me that something I wrote helped them in some way during a difficult time. Hearing that from just one person makes it all worthwhile.
15: Top 3 hardcore shows in your memory that you have actually played? And why?
Anthony: The 30 year anniversary show is right up there. That was an incredible night. That was a hardcore Killing Time night and we had so many old friends that came out to celebrate with us. It was a killer set too. You can stream it online at Hate5Six.com.
The first Hardcore Super Bowl show at the old Ritz is also up there. It meant a lot to go from normally standing in the audience to performing on that stage. I thought I was the shit.
There was also a show in East Germany in 1992 where we played to a packed crowd in a huge venue in front of people that were starving to see live music. It was on Dave Franklin’s birthday and the entire crowd sang happy birthday to him. He and I had talked about that show many times over the years.
KILLING TIME AND FRIENDS AFTER THEIR 30TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW AT BROOKLYN BAZAAR
NOVEMBER 24, 2017. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
16: Most embarrassing moments you have experienced on stage?
Anthony: We’ve had some horrible shows over the years. The last one was at Game Changer World (NJ) or whatever you call it for the Nate Vorhees' benefit. The venue there sucks. The sound was terrible. Anthony was unpracticed and had too much gin. It was a train wreck. We walked off before the end of the set and we left Anthony on stage to berate us in front of the crowd. We played a Lamour’s show once where I kicked through the head of my kick drum early in the set. I figured I could adapt and start playing the kick drum beats on my floor tom. It was horrible. We played a show in Yonkers where Anthony dislocated his shoulder during the first song and had to be taken to the hospital. We had to perform the rest of the set with random people in the audience coming on stage to sing for him, like some half assed karaoke. I also full forced vomited onto my snare drum while playing a show with Breakdown in upstate NY, right in front of my girlfriend. She was horrified. I had to keep playing and shit was flying everywhere. It was very punk rock.
17: If you could go back and have a do over in any aspect of your musical history what would you like to go back to and change?
Anthony: I think it would be the period of time that Rich wasn’t part of the band. He had been asking for some time to move to guitar from bass and Anthony, Carl and I were dead set against it. We really wanted to keep it as a four piece. Rich had spent a good amount of time learning all the songs on guitar and was very confident that he could do it. None of us doubted it but still denied him the opportunity. He held to his guns and left the band that day. It really sucked. Alex Gopoian did a great job for us during that time but Alex was never really into Killing Time like the rest of us. He had his own band Justice System that he poured his heart into. Rich eventually got what he was looking for when he rejoined the band before the “Unavoidable” EP, but I still regret how me and the rest of the guys handled it.
18: Gordita Beach is a new project put together by Derrick Karg Zamudio of Savage Youth. He got you along with Chris and Carl from Killing Time to help perform the songs he wrote and recently you all went into the studio to record. Can you tell us more about this band and possible future plans?
Anthony: Carl had texted me one day saying that a friend of his had a new project and needed some help. I assumed he meant a logo design or something like that, so I was like sure. The text went on for a bit when I realized that Derrick needed a drummer. Then I was like hold on a second. So Carl ends up shooting me a link to the homemade demo tracks Derrick had made and I listened to it the next day. The tracks were so old school and aggressive. I was floored. I told Carl the next day to count me in. That’s when I found out that Carl was also laying down tracks - then I got really psyched. Chris told me he also got tapped a couple weeks later - even better. We had to rehearse the songs apart leading up to the recording in late November. My Roland kit at home took a beating. It felt good playing straight out fast and angry. I didn’t want to change too much of anything that I heard from the drum loops on the demo. They were of course one of the elements that made me interested in the first place. I have to admit that it took some time to build up the stamina to keep up the speed and intensity, but I am pleased on how everything came together. Everybody should check it. Derrick is an incredible talent. I’m proud to be a part of it.
19: The Gordita Beach song we premiered recently on in Effect is “Masque Of The Blue Death” which is a song about police shootings. Are there or were there any mixed feelings with this songs content considering you have been in law enforcement for over two decades?
Anthony: I don’t have a problem with it. It’s a protest song and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a valid one.
(Click HERE to listen to Gordita Beach's "Masque Of The Blue Death")
6 SIDES TO EVERYTHING
20: Can you tell us a little about a non-musical side gig you recently started up called 6 Sides To Everything? What is it, how can people get one made and what have been some of your favorite cubes that you have created so far? Can you describe the production process?
Anthony: Hah! I’m turning into an old ginny like my father. My dad used to do woodworking in the garage for hours a day. I think just to keep himself moving and have purpose. I realize at my age that I am much more like him than I used to think. If I’m not doing something or creating something, I get anxious. So I started making handmade wood prints that I sell on Etsy. I started out with making a Killing Time block that I gave to rest of the guys as a party favor on my 50th. The store is called “6 Sides To Everything” because I print images on each side of the block. I started just making blocks around movies, TV shows, bands, authors and books that I have admired since childhood, but I do also get a lot of custom requests. As far as the process, I cut and sand different size blocks out of Maple or Red Oak, then I transfer images to the wood surface with polycrylic, then apply a layer of clear coat to the finished product. It’s going pretty good so far and I got some great reviews. I have been trying to develop a social media presence lately, find out more about it on Instagram or Etsy.
20a: Before Rich passed I always thought a great idea for a split 7" would be to have Breakdown and Killing Time each write and record one new song each. Have there been any new songs written by either band in the last bunch of years and what's the internal feelings within the bands when the topic of writing new material comes up?
Anthony: I’m definitely into writing some new Killing Time songs. We have spoken about it in the past. Possibly releasing singles digitally and printing limited 7”s. Now is not the best time to think about it but don’t rule us out.
20b: In a post Covid live music sense do you see Killing Time going back to the way you were playing shows before? As it stood you would play a few select local shows a year, This Is Hardcore, FYA Fest and things of that nature. Has any thought been given to playing out live at some point?
Anthony: None of us have really wanted to discuss this since Rich passed. Right now, we just have to heal a bit and wait for the world to get back to normal. It’s a discussion that’s bound to happen at some time. All I can say is, we’ll see.
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