Dead Blow Hammer are a NY/NJ based band that got their start last century when they were known as Against The Grain. Their “ ‘96 Demo” (which was released in 1996) was produced by Billy Milano of S.O.D./M.O.D. fame. In addition to producing their 1998 full length “Mentiroso” Milano also served as the band’s manager in their earlier years. Against The Grain and now Dead Blow Hammer (they changed their name to DBH about 4 years back) have never been a big touring band and their history has been dotted with some gaps of inactivity but when they do drop new music you are sure to get some potent old-school style NYHC. Would you expect anything less from a band that features ex-Agnostic Front bassist Rob Kabula on board? Their latest is titled “No Repercussions?” and it was released on CD and 7” vinyl earlier this year. This interview was initially set to take place at an outdoor punk fest in NYC called Punk Island but plans fell through so we took this to an email setting with their frontman Adriano Garcia aka “A.G.” answering these questions in October. The rest of the current DBH lineup is: Carlos Diaz – guitar, Gary Yosco – guitar, Rob Kabula – bass, & Christian Koresh – drums. Graphics by Bas Spierings. Shout outs to photographers Anthony Bodiglio (Lead photo), Tim Daley and Steven J. Messina for lending us their quality work to share with you as well.
IE: What’s up AG? Where exactly are you right now and what do you think you would be doing if you weren’t answering these questions right now?
AG: What's up Chris! I'm stuck home feeling imprisoned doing my master's degree homework. I would want to be on the Asbury Park boardwalk eating Maruca's Pizza and then afterwards pretending to be one of the Asbury leftover town skells harassing people.
IE: This interview was initially supposed to happen at the Punk Island show in NYC back in June but plans got changed and I missed that show. Obviously since you played there that day you know first-hand how diverse and unique Punk Island is. Can you give us a little insight to your set that day and maybe talk about the whole Punk Island vibe.
AG: Punk Island was awesome! We'd love to do it again next year. It was held on Randall's Island. It's very diverse. Everyone had a stage! Anarchists, Trans-core, Irish-core, Cuban-core, Bermuda via South Carolina-core, Missing limbs-core. It was overwhelming in a positive way! The one thing that sucked was that there were so many bands to see that were playing at the same time as each other and we missed out checking out some bands because of that. But none-the-less it was cool to see everyone from different parts of the punk spectrum checking each other's bands out and chillin’ with each other. Got to meet a lot of cool people. We were on the Lunchbox Stage which was in honor of the late James "Lunchbox" Giunta (R.I.P.), a fixture from the Punk Island world. The Lunchbox Stage was up my alley. It was comprised of the knuckleheaded or knuckledraggers (my people lol) of the hardcore punk scene at least for the most part. The bands were great! You had bands like Abrupt and RBNX to name a few, killing it! The response was great! People were circle pitting themselves into a frenzy. I even got to see a 5 year old rip it in the circle pit! That was a highlight for sure. It was definitely cool to see the younger crowd being really receptive to us.
IE: Back in April DBH put out your first new music since 2015, before that the previous release came out I think in 2002. Those are some long gaps in between records. This time around the band seems to have picked things up in regards to playing out. Why the lull of 4 years between this new one and the last one and was there some sort of spark or kick in the ass that got things rolling again?
AG: Back in 2015, I was a one man show trying to get the word out for the DBH EP. I was our distributor. We put the record out on our own under Catarina Records (my daughter's name). Not a lot of people knew about it even after a year or so of it coming out. It was very slow going at first. So a lot of promoters weren't quick to us at that time. As far as the lull, we had some personnel changes along the way and our drummer, Pete sustained a nagging shoulder injury and had to bow out. Once we got Gary and Chris in the mix a few years ago, we took our time to click together and mold the music with them. Then we decided the time was right to put out these songs on a new release. Songs like “Imperious” and “Caught Me A Virus” are 5 years old. I wouldn't have waited that long to put them out but I'm glad now we did as Gary and Chris threw some new ideas into the mix to make them even better. After the new EP (No Repercussions?) came out, people were digging it and the buzz was going around. It was helpful that we connected with hard working Patient Zero Records who put out the 7 inch version and are spreading the word constantly on this release. We are all a pain in the balls to get things going generally speaking. As of late though, everyone is throwing in and getting things done and it's working for our benefit!
PHOTO BY: ANTHONY BODIGLIO
IE: Musically DBH plays that old-school NYHC style with Kabula’s opening bass line on “No Repercussions?” just being so distinguishable in a Kabula as well as a NYHC way. Can you talk about the sound on this new one as compared to older DBH stuff? Although you fly the “old-school flag” there are some modern/2019 vibes mixed in as well. To me, this may be my favorite group of songs in the bands history.
AG: You know, here's the deal: I'm a hardcore punk and new wave guy. I'm a traditionalist and I hated mixing the two worlds (hardcore and metal) especially when it came down to writing music. But it doesn't mean I didn't like metal. What I did like about metal were the bands that were influenced by hardcore and the ones that had a thrashy element to their noise. In the world of hardcore, I enjoyed listening to the bands with the speedy crossover sound and including, the bands that had the elements of thrash. When the first EP came out, I police'd that shit to no end to the dismay of some band members that grew up on metal. Before “No Repercussions?” came out, I said "OK, I think I might be limiting these guys." and I felt I was. Instead I said, let's marry our ideas and see what happens, so long as it's only the thrash and crossover elements. No winky wank technical or sludgy stuff. So where the initial EP had an overall mid-pace hardcore punk feel, on "No Rep?" we married that with some speed, thrash, and some crossover. And look at that, it worked out and everyone's happy! Everyone's ideas I feel were married and well represented on "No Rep?".
DEAD BLOW HAMMER (KNOWN THEN AS AGAINST THE GRAIN) @ THE 2014 BLACK 'N BLUE BOWL NYC. PHOTO BY: ANTHONY BODIGLIO
IE: Outside of the track “Caught Me A Virus” the new EP has a ton of “political and life in 2019 is just fucked up” vibes. On “Leaders Grow Afraid” the line of “we laugh at our sinking ship” really stood out to me. Talk to us about your lyrical approach on this new EP and what inspired you, what inspired the cover artwork and what (perhaps) keeps you up at night when you are trying to fall asleep.
AG: “Leaders Grow Afraid” tells you that the U.S. lost the war to the Nazi's and commies. We have a White House built on fear, and a nation from both sides of the political spectrum obnoxiously bringing the Nazi and commie stuff to our table. A complete joke. What's the solution? I don't know. A new political party? Most likely. It's a message that we lost the war on everything we fought against. “Imperious” works on the story of a mentally ill workaholic trying to prove and outdo herself to the point of exhaustion, death, and she fails to see "what's the point?" “Dents” talks about a leader (rhymes with Prussia lol) and from the perspective of a person who has "info" on him but knows he's destined to die because of what he knows about the leader. “Caste System Skunks” brings you to the story about a country's leader who sold out his nation for colonizers and used the caste system or the order of color of a person to dictate who's in charge. He's taught and indoctrinated by his new masters while allowing the masters to rape the land of its riches. “Caught Me A Virus” may sound tongue in cheek but it holds true to anyone you're with that just becomes an utter pariah. Basically, just being with an unabashed screw up that brings along all types of pitfalls, curses, nightmares, and all sorts of troubles your way.
IE: I have asked other bands in the past this same question and that is do you think all the members of a band have to be on board with a songs message/meaning? Do you write all the lyrics and do you bring them to the other guys and discuss them, maybe even revise them in any way after doing so?
AG: I write most of the music lyrically and they discuss them with me. Sometimes they look at me and say "What the heck are you talking about?" but we will work together on it if they're not feeling the lyrics. Any revising we do, we collaborate, and we make it work. I'm open to whatever they bring me because they have a lot of creativity going on in their entertaining minds. The only thing I always tell them is to not bring me lyrics about hardcore and the hardcore scene. That's been done to complete death man. Since Against The Grain, I've had band members disagree with lyrics. You know, things that they didn't agree with politically, socially, or whatever. But the one thing is that despite differences in songwriting, everyone respected each other's opinion to speak out lyrically.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER @ NIAGRA, NYC MAY 5, 2019. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
IE: Your latest EP is the only one I can remember that lists a toy piano as one of the instruments. Can we get the backstory to this from the song “Caught Me A Virus”.
AG: Kabula, who surprised me, brought up having a creepy piano on the song. I said, let's make it an off key sounding piano, and a toy piano at that. We borrowed our engineer's (Ben DeGennaro) son's toy piano and it worked. I played it. I acted cool in front of the guys like I knew the keys and knew what I was doing but really learned it right on the spot as Ben was setting up the mics on the piano to record it.
IE: Back in May I caught DBH at Niagra in NYC and at that show you had your own personal microphone. I think it may be called a Shure? Whatever it is called it looks really retro in its style. What is the backstory with you using this type of microphone and do you think you get a better range, sound, or any kind of advantage over not using it?
AG: Yeah, I got the Shure retro mic. Not to act like Mr.Retro McCool or anything but for a long time I was researching a mic that had sound and range advantage. Regular mic's never cut it for me. Shure was the right choice. People had said in the past that it was tough to hear me live. I tested it out and boy what a difference. I should have gotten it earlier.
IE: A joke I have seen amongst bands over the years is that the singer has it the easiest amongst all the members of a band as they basically just bring themselves to a show while the rest of the members have to lug their gear like drums, amps etc to gigs. Hopefully you are letting the rest of the other members of the band know you are pulling your weight!
AG: Oh, believe me they know. I do what I can to earn my keep here. I help them pick up crap. And when I'm not there to help them, I dive into other roles with these guys. It's not to say that despite them lugging their equipment I'm lucky to say these guys EVEN step up into other roles too. They get things done and they take it seriously.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER @ NIAGRA, NYC MAY 5, 2019. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IE: Going back to that May show in NYC I recognized a great rapport amongst the members of your band. There was a lot of joking around and ball busting, especially aimed at Kabula with him being the senior member age wise in the band. He also gave it right back and there was this feeling that you guys were just having a really good time without overdoing it or getting too carried away while churning out a full set. It appears you all get along pretty well together. Can you talk about your fellow band members and how well you all get along or is it is a little more dysfunctional than we got to see that day?
AG: These bums in our band are a disagreeable bunch of pain in the asses. I'm a pain in the ass. I'm stubborn and bossy. We all are pain in the asses in our own right. But the thing is, everyone is lovable and friends with each other. Really, it's like how brothers act with each other. We argue, we fart near each other, we bust each other's balls but at the end of the day everything is brushed off and laughed at. If you can't be a part of the brotherhood, you're not gonna last with us. Definitely no crap attitudes here.
IE: What is it like to have Rob Kabula in the band? The rest of the band are definitely not new to the hardcore scene but this guy friggin’ played on “Victim In Pain” for crying out loud. Do you ever look over while you are playing and think “that’s Rob Kabula I am playing next to?”
AG: Every day. This is the guy who's mug I looked at on the back of the “Victim In Pain/Cause For Alarm” CD every time I played it and looked at the liner notes. I always said "what's this dude's story looking like he's ready to fight in a back alley with the leather jacket on?" I got my wish and now I know what it's like to play with Rob. He's like a big brother filled with wisdom. Every time I'm stubborn and I say "we gotta do this this way" he tells you based on his experience how it's not gonna work out and how I'm being stubborn. And most times, he's right and he ends up making me look like that naive teenager that acts like he knows everything. Even when we butt heads on something, I understand that he has his reasons. What I love about him is that he gives me a shot writing music. Even though I'm awful at instruments, when I get behind the drums or a guitar to pitch an idea, he will laugh at me but he's ALWAYS open to my song ideas. Very rarely has he said no to an idea I had. We parallel each other in what we want to hear. I'm grateful to him AND the band when they give me a chance to write the music part of a song.
IE: This band started off being called Against The Grain back in 1996. When you think back to those earliest days of the band what kinds of memories come to mind? First practices, meeting the other band members maybe for the first time, crazy things that happened at shows, things like that where they have stayed in your memory all these years later?
AG: Great memories and frustrating memories. We were younger, so we had a mix of more assholism, irresponsibility, and some of us were prone to being confrontational unfortunately. I wasn't easy either. I was bossy. Some people were too angry. Some others were forgetful. Others were always complaining. Every day was a trial. But today, we look at all that stuff and we laugh our asses off. Everything that could go wrong went wrong though, lol. It was to the point that whenever we got good news, I hated it because it was always followed with bad news tenfold. We were offered shows but they would forget to put us on the flyer. We'd go to shows a few states away but they'd forget to tell us shows were canceled. But we had fun. I can't deny that. A lot of work went with it. I love Dead Blow Hammer because it's the second chance where I took from the mistakes I learned from Against The Grain and applied those corrections to this band.
Crazy things that happened...let's see:
At a crappy show in Connecticut, a burnout kept yelling during our set to play Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. To "try" and add insult to injury the same burnt individual tried to pick up our old guitar player's girlfriend. Our guitar player knocked him in the face and next thing you know the guy was on his ass in shock. Later on, I see the guy all humbled at the bar favoring his shiner next to our old drummer who was talking Black Sabbath and Zeppelin to the guy lol.
We played in Maryland at one show and some girl decided out of nowhere to show her private parts like "oh yeah, let me show you" as if it was nothing.
CBGB's had this nasty little bitchy sounding soundman named Josh. Never friendly, was always talking all snobby. Mind you, we were pain in the asses and we were taking long to set up one time but from the get go he came across as a bitch so I didn't care. He deserved us lol. He came across like some elite uptown city snob. So our anal retentive unfriendly soundman with hands on his hips, came up to us and said something like "Look, you guys wasted ten minutes and now you have ten minutes to play." The way he came across sounded like when a little kid tells you he's not sharing with you. So Billy Milano, our manager at the time, screams at him at the top of his lungs "YO TOM PETTY, GET BEHIND THE SOUNDBOARD BEFORE I PUT MY FOOT UP YOUR ASS!!!" and this dude quickly walks back to the soundboard and mutters a very quiet and frightened "OK." Not the last time, we dealt with him at CB's. I had to stop my drummer from killing him when my drummer asked him a question politely and he answered back like a bitch.
Another time, we did a show in Deer Park, NY in '02 I want to say. It was a show with Bane I believe. Tom from New Ground, a really nice guy booked us on the show. We get there and it's very young kids. The first band I remember was a stoner doom band . The second band was like a screamo band. Then we get on with our fast hardcore. The kids are looking pouty and annoyed that we're playing fast it seems. So I decide that I was gonna wake everyone up with politically incorrect comments. The kids started jeering and cursing at us, others yelled at us to "go back to the city, junky." You really had to see it to believe it. I was cracking up while singing. They started sitting in protest of us. My guitar player went rumbling through them on the dance floor with his guitar during a song. They looked like they wanted to murder us. After we get off stage, Tom and a dude from a local Oi band were apologizing to us about the crowd sucking. We said no need to apologize, we weren't worried, and we were laughing it off.
After a bit, the band leaves and before I go, I decide to get a bottled water at the Taco Bell next door. When I get to my truck there's about 7 guys and one girl no later than 18-19 years of age. No joke, one of them pulls his cap sideways and tries to get face to face with me.I put my arm out towards his chest and I said "distance, junior, distance." The kid starts talking in street slang calling me out because my guitar player hurt one of them. I just told him that I wasn't gonna get into a fight with a little boy so I said for him to go home and play Sega or something. The one girl pulled him away, I got in my car dying laughing. On the ride back I was just like what happened? Who let these pansies play any type of heavy music? The next morning I got an entertaining email, and get ready, as this is how they signed their names: XColinX and XAshton_For_LifeX. They called us out for our guitarist running them over, for being old men who had no right to play hardcore, and that we should be playing real hardcore like: (insert emo metal band). They said for us not to go back to Deer Park or we'd be in trouble lol. This was beyond mental comprehension. I said maybe I should move this band to California, even though only I did for a bit. From all this, I just wondered what happened to Coli...excuse me XColinX and Mr. XFor_LifeX there. I'm sure they're unhappily getting offended somewhere.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER @THE MEATLOCKER, MONTVALE, NJ OCTOBER, 2017.
PHOTO BY: ANTHONY BODIGLIO
IE: “No Repercussions?” is out on vinyl, CD and cassette. How can people get copies, maybe a shirt or a sticker or any other merch? If people want to book you guys how should they go about it and where are you looking to play over the next few months?
AG: The best ways to get merch is come see us live of course! Also, search us on Bandcamp and order merch there! To check and see what's happening with us, search us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and cool pics! You can order our new EP "No Repercussions?" at Patienzerorecords.net. To book us, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're going to do a last round of shows in New York to end the year and then next year Panama is in the works believe it or not. Other than that, we have nothing set yet but we will definitely have things happening now for sure!