Fahrenheit 451 were one of the most innovative NYHC bands to ever do it mixing in elements from their five members’ diverse musical tastes. Hardcore punk, metal, hip-hop and more were molded together into a very “different type of hardcore”. The band’s run started in 1995 and ended in 2000. Since then they have done a few reunion shows, released a discography of all of their recorded material and now have finally gotten all of that old material up on the big streaming services. With this new news we figured it would be a good time to catch up with their old guitarist Lenny Bednarz and bassist Kevin Smith to get the lowdown on the streaming stuff and get some old war stories out there too. The rest of F451 was: Armando Bordas- vocals, Frank Villalona- guitar, and Ray Greene- drums. Lead photo by: Richie Tuffini. Graphics by: John Franko.
IE: What’s up Lenny and Kevin? F451 is not a band who I thought I would be interviewing in 2020 since the band has been broken up for years but here we are. What triggered this chat is the recent streaming release of Fahrenheit’s discography CD. The CD originally came out in ’06 but obviously streaming is the way many people listen to music these days. Can you break down the newly streaming material? Where can people find it and what recordings are on it?
Lenny: The material is basically the discography that came out on Awake/Strong back in 2006, minus the Motörhead song “No Class” that was recorded for a Motörhead tribute on Victory Records. You can find it on most streaming services (we were not able to secure the licensing for that song). As for what’s on it… it is our first demo, “The Thought Of It” EP, the “New York’s Hardest” comp tracks, bonus tracks from the Japanese version of “The Thought Of It” EP, and unreleased material that was going to be songs on future records. There are also a couple of live tracks from our reunion show at CBGB’s from 2005.
IE: I wanted to follow that up with why put this out now?
Lenny: Well, it started a couple of weeks ago. Every day I was posting different things on social media to entertain people as well as myself. Stuff like photos of my guitars from my collection and random show posters or flyers. I also would post old show videos from bands I was in. So I had posted up the F451 documentary and Adam Saks had asked if any of the songs were online to stream. That basically started it all off. Armando and I started talking about it and in a couple of days it was uploaded and out. We all had thought about doing this at some point but never got around to it or assumed someone else would have done it. Right now with everyone stuck at home with no shows to go to or nothing new really being released we figured it was as good as a time as any.
Kevin: Well what triggered the release was COVID! Haha! Actually releasing it in this way was discussed but fell by the wayside but now with more time on our hands we can give these songs their just due. We’ve also gotten a lot of requests for CD’s and we only have a few left! There are people who really liked what we did and we feel eternally blessed to have fans and people who supported and believed in us as a band. So this is for them. Right now it’s on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, TikTok/Resso, Google Play/YouTube, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal, Napster, iHeartRadio, ClaroMusica, Saavn, Anghami, KKBox, NetEase (beta), MediaNet, Instagram/Facebook.
STREAM THE FAHRENHEIT 451 RECORDED CATALOG ON SPOTIFY HERE
IE: Fahrenheit took shape from the band Without A Cause who had Fahrenheit members Lenny and Frank in the band. In addition to the newly streamed music from F451 you also pushed out the entire Without A Cause catalog as well. I wanted to ask you the previous question again but apply it to the Without A Cause release.
Lenny: Without A Cause was a band that started back in 1991 and broke up in 1994. It’s one of those bands that more or less got lost in the mix during the early 90’s hardcore history. We were basically a local band that rarely played outside of the NY/NJ area. We did play a ton of shows and when things sort of fell apart Frank and I wanted to continue and the band basically morphed into Fahrenheit. When the F451 stuff was being uploaded for streaming it seemed natural that the Without A Cause stuff should also see the light of day, and who knows there might be a physical release at some point but with the way things are right now who knows when that will be. Right now I really don’t want people spending their money on shit they don’t really need at this point. For everyone I know who is still working there are several that are not and for the ones that aren’t working maybe half of them are able to collect unemployment. Right now it’s about survival and putting food on the table. At the end of the day I wanted to give back to everyone. Maybe it’ll take their minds off their current situation even for a little while. On that note a band Armando and I had back in 2004-2006 called Dominican Day Parade will be releasing our full length for streaming very soon as well. We only made a limited run of CD’s back in the day and I believe we had it on My Space too, but who the fuck uses My Space these days!?
IE: So we don’t build people’s hopes up too high here are there any other Fahrenheit 451 announcements before we continue on?
Kevin: As for announcements from F451 right now this is it. We have been asked to do shows but right now it’s not in the cards. I personally won’t say it won’t happen again, because you never know. We all have things going on. Myself and Lenny are doing Crazy Eddie and I’m in another band called Another Distraction. Frank has a project he’s been working on with Cesar from District 9, and Ray is also involved in that project. Armando is busy with his own projects. So again right now no but in the future I’d like to see it.
Lenny: Nothing is planned, but nothing is impossible either. In my life I’ve realized things just sort of happen.
IE: This band’s existence was directly tied to the late 90’s scene yet you guys sounded like no other band out there at the time. Musically Fahrenheit was innovative and took chances yet you were embraced by the tough guy, karate kicking, NYHC scene that had a big portion of bands playing more of a metal influenced style of hardcore. How would you go about explaining how Fahrenheit’s sound came to be? What were the biggest factors and who were the biggest influencers within the band that led you guys on your path?
Lenny: We’ve all always been music nerds, there is nothing we won’t listen to for the most part. I guess we just let our influences out for the world to see instead of just sticking to the formula that a lot of bands are afraid to drift from. We definitely had our roots in hardcore and metal, but at the end of the day we just wrote and played what we wanted to. Some people got that from jump, others not so much. Our sound if you will wasn’t something we planned on, it just sort of happened. It was a mix of different things that each of us brought to the table. Someone recently described it to me as a different type of hardcore, and I agree.
Kevin: Back in the 90’s when we became Fahrenheit 451 the rise of harder bands was in. We appeared on the “New York’s Hardest” compilation. People had this image of the band, and then the two song demo came out and people were like what the fuck? We flipped things musically and honestly people didn’t know how to take us. Yes, a lot of bands were doing the metal/hardcore thing, but we wanted to try something different. At that point guys in this band were listening to so many types of music and bands. Everything from salsa to death metal and we wanted to bring all those influences into our music. But I’ll say this… there were a few bands (Burn, Orange 9mm, Quicksand, Shift ) who had a very heavy influence on our writing. People dug us though because we somehow took hard music and other types of music and molded it.
PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
IE: When the band broke up in July of 2000 you were huge in NY and had made a name for yourselves throughout the world of hardcore but it wasn’t always like that. You guys had a slow start. Can you talk about the early days of the band and what made you guys not pack it in when you were drawing very small crowds and maybe not getting the kind of respect you deserved?
Lenny: We just did us and really didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing. We knew we had to work at it plain and simple. No one was gonna make it easy for us. We got snubbed for a lot of things early on but kept at it. We did luck out though very early on and somehow got a slot on the “New York’s Hardest” comp but that wouldn’t come out for almost a year. It did help us later on while on tour as it seemed like everyone had that CD. We just stayed in our lane and when we did our demo we made sure everyone had it. I believe we pressed almost 1500 copies by the end of it. We also made sure to give it everything we had at every show. The first year (1995) we worked our asses off and by 1996 we started getting noticed. Vaughn Lewis who managed Crown Of Thorns, H20 and Murphy’s Law decided to take us on and manage the band. I guess he saw something in us that others didn’t see. We never complained during those early days… we just worked.
IE: Vision Of Disorder and H2O were two bands you guys shared the stage with in this bands heyday. Can you talk about your relationships with both of these bands back then? All three of these bands had a different style yet were all recognizable pieces of late 90’s NYHC.
Kevin: We were linked to H2O and V.O.D. because we were all coming up around that time. We each had differing paths but ended up more or less in the same spot. We played with them and there was a little inter-band rivalry but not in a bad way… just who could go out and kill it on stage. I’d say we all elevated each other’s game live. We knew these guys were heavy hitters and we had a penchant for coming in as underdogs and putting on a show which made it harder for bigger acts to just play their B game, haha! Just ask Downset about that CBGB’s show! After we played that place emptied out… and they were pretty big at that point. A quick tour story too… well we were known as HUGE pot heads and well we were also known for corrupting people in other bands. V.O.D. and us had somewhat of similar mentalities on that. H2O? Well let’s just say that we corrupted a few of those guys!
Lenny: Our common goal was really to go out there and just kill the audience. There was a friendly competition between those bands for sure. Also during this time the scene was awash with newer kids coming in from the Warped Tour. After seeing a New York band they would check them out at local club dates and most of them liked different types of music so it fell into our favor. NYHC during that time ruled the roost and you could have several shows on a weekend and every one of them would be packed. Literally the scene was 1000’s of kids at that point. So it seemed like there was something for everyone.
IE: If you had to take a guess on how many shows F451 played what would it be?
Lenny: My guess would be between 300-400 shows. Touring wise we did our first long weekend with H20 in early to mid-1996. Then it seemed like every weekend we would be doing more shows with them and in total we probably played about 100 gigs with them if not more. We just got along with them and we all worked well together. In the summer of 1997 we did a week here and there with V.O.D. and more H20 shows. In the fall of 1997 Maximum Penalty, Powerhouse and us did an East Coast tour for 2-3 weeks followed shortly after by a 2-3 week winter tour with H20 and Orange 9mm in the Midwest. In the spring of 1998 we hit the Midwest and West Coast with H20 and Vision. In the summer of 1998 we did a few dates here and there with Burn. Then in the fall of ‘98 we did a short tour of New England with Underdog. After that things get a little blurry… we would go out with bands like Candira… it really was non-stop for that whole time.
IE: Before that reunion show in 2005 at CBGB’s where was the last Fahrenheit show?
Lenny: Funny enough our last show was at CBGB’s in June of 2000. I had to ask Armando about this one and we remember it being a weekday show. I believe we were doing a showcase for a record label so it was probably a bunch of random bands and hardly anyone was there. We went out with a whimper.
IE: What would you say was the biggest crowd you performed in front of with Fahrenheit?
Lenny: That’s an easy one… August 29th, 1998 at the “Alive And Well” festival in Asbury Park NJ. I know this date because I have the poster still. Had to be what seemed like a few thousand people there. On the bill were The Misfits, Sick Of It All, H20, Underdog, 7 Seconds, Murphy’s Law, Madball, Orange 9mm, Fury Of Five, Skarhead, Indecision, Better Than A Thousand, Earth Crisis. That was a crazy line up. Locally in NYC, August 1997 with V.O.D, Cast Iron Hike and A Day In The Life at Irving Plaza. This show sold out a few days before the date and the ticket count from what they told us was 1200. Trust me it was way more as us and the V.O.D. guys kept letting people in through the side door.
IE: Your favorite on stage Fahrenheit memory is…
Kevin: My favorite memory was actually three things. Playing with the Misfits at CBGB’s. Playing with Motörhead in 1998 at 7 Willow Street in Port Chester, NY. Lemmy actually told me that he loved my bass. Talk about a fan boy moment. I mean Lemmy is a God (big G) among bass players and I remember him checking out a few of our songs. He said we played a really good set and he was such an amazing and genuine person. I believe we may have even drank some of their booze at that show unknowingly. Another was playing a show at CBGB’s where Myke from District 9 was handing me a blunt on stage during our set… haha! I remember thinking woah, this is crazy! I remember looking over at Lenny and him laughing and then giving me the hurry up and pass that shit look.
Lenny: Well show wise there are so many but here’s a funny little story that is Fahrenheit related. So we are on a short 5 day tour with Underdog in November of ‘98. In the middle of this run we have a day off, so we decided we were gonna return the rental van on the day off and then pick one up on the show day and drive to Boston to save some money. The rental place was across the street from where I lived, so we dropped it off and Armando and I decide to smoke a blunt behind my building after the fact. We get arrested at 2pm in the afternoon… we got caught up in a sweep. So without going into every detail we spent the night in central booking and got released the next morning at 11am. Took a cab home, showered and slept for like an hour before we picked up the new van and drove to Boston to continue our run with Underdog. And what do we do as soon as we get in the van? Smoke more weed of course. Good times.
FAHRENHEIT 451 @ THE 2008 BLACK 'N BLUE BOWL, NYC. PHOTO BY: SAMMA JAMMA
IE: The thing/things you miss the most about Fahrenheit 451’s heyday?
Lenny: The amount of clubs we had… there were just so many in the city. Since the early 2000’s that number has been dwindling to the point where we are down to literally a handful that will accept this thing of ours. You didn’t have to rely on a reunion show or some other gimmick to pack a show in and it was common place for most shows to be crowded. That’s how it was always. There was just a sense of fanatical devotion to the scene.
Kevin: The thing I miss the most from those days is how much closer bands were with each other… and how there were many more places to play. Drew Stone is keeping things alive and fresh with the A7 shows and you have pop up shows here and there, but I miss the Wetlands and Coney Island High. I also miss how shows were a mixture of kids. You had straight edge kids hanging out with kids who smoked and drank. No one cared, it was about unity and good times… not that it’s not this way now to an extent, but there was a special context back then… or maybe I’m making a boomer comment! Haha!
IE: The two of you have stayed close to the hardcore scene since Fahrenheit broke up and are still in a band together today actually. What are some of the biggest differences you see within the scene from the turn of the century to today?
Kevin: The biggest thing I’ve seen is just the passing of the torch so to speak crowd wise. You still have all the guys from back then going to shows and representing but more so we have a new crew of kids coming in and it’s awesome. To be able to be to witness this is humbling. The awesome thing also is how some of the new bands are taking it and running with it. The Car Bomb Parade is a great example. They are leading a charge of new fresh air into the scene.
FAHRENHEIT 451 @ THE 2008 BLACK 'N BLUE BOWL, NYC. PHOTO BY: SAMMA JAMMA
IE: If F451 was a brand new band that came out today how do you think your music would be accepted?
Kevin: If we came out now I think the result would be the same. Being the different sounding band on a bill isn’t a bad thing but I think people would appreciate what we do/did. People look for genuine music and that never changes. We put out what we felt was genuine and true.
IE: What Fahrenheit song do you think did the best job of standing the test of time?
Kevin: The song I think would stand up to the test of time is “Blind”. Maybe I’m biased because the song is built around my bass line. Live it was a song which people loved and it had such an undeniable groove. Plus we were the first band to pull off a three part harmony on a song like that within the scene… but in all seriousness it’s such a great song.
Lenny: That’s a hard one for me to answer. “Blind” is a favorite for sure but “Fragments” still holds up well. In fact a lot of that stuff still holds up well even 20 years later.
IE: In the Fahrenheit documentary you guys are pretty straight forward about how joining forces with bigger record labels was kind of the demise of the band. I think someone said in the F451 doc that it “just wasn’t fun anymore”. Can you talk more about handing over your finished recording and then hearing that they may want you to re-record the entire album because they weren’t satisfied with what you gave them?
Kevin: We had a few big record labels sniffing around and some of the smaller ones as well. Victory Records made a huge push but in the end we wanted more creative control over our music and how we would be marketed. They honestly didn’t know how to market us because we weren’t a standard NYHC band. This band had its roots in that and it was in the music but we wanted to be more than that. We wanted to take that label of NYHC and give it our own spin. They didn’t share that. We ended up going with a publishing/development deal with Jive/Zomba which wasn’t bad as it allowed us to record and shop it around. We were given money… more so than what we may have needed lol. We recorded those songs and when we were told that a label may want them re-recorded it really put us off. We took writing those songs personally. Lyrically and musically those songs were our lives on a very personal level. To be told that was like a bucket of cold water hitting you in the face. I think this also put pressure on us to make them sound a certain way. Our greatest asset was that between the five of us we just synced musically but it was also our crutch. We got bogged down in trying to make the songs too perfect. Watch the full F451 documentary HERE.
FAHRENEIT 451 LIVE ON WNYU'S CRUCIAL CHAOS RADIO SHOW, DECEMBER 5, 1996. PHOTO BY: CW
CLICK PHOTO TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SET
IE: There also seemed to be a strain within the band due to being given more recording money than you probably ever had thrown at you. If you could go back and change anything from this time period within the band what (if anything) would you do?
Kevin: The band had strains because we played relentlessly for a while and toured and then came back and hit the studio. We never took a break to just relax and enjoy what we had accomplished. We had a momentum which at the same time we didn’t want to lose. Looking back we should have taken it easy before recording.
Lenny: I would have changed the way we went about writing songs, during the latter part of the band it really became a chore to get anything done. We would spend too much time writing and then rewriting songs. Almost second guessing what we were doing.
IE: Do you have any advice for younger bands coming up within the hardcore scene that may be reading about your story for the first time? It seems like when the record labels came calling they opened doors for Fahrenheit yet in other ways they made being in Fahrenheit not fun.
Kevin: For younger bands coming up and dealing with labels my advice is this… if your gut tells you this ain’t right then it ain’t right. Don’t sell your musical soul because they can get you on tour X. Those things are great, don’t get me wrong… but your passion and love should never be compromised so someone can make a fast buck.
Lenny: Before I answer this I have to say we had a great team of people behind us. Howie Abrams, Vaughn Lewis and Kenny Gabor… they believed in us 100% and always had our best interest at heart. We, yes WE, fucked things up and that leads me into my advice. If you are looking to "make it" be prepared to work your asses off. Labels? What labels? Now with streaming there is no real money to be made off of sales. It’s about merch sales and what you collect at the door and neither of those are a guarantee. Be passionate about what you do, but realize the bands that make this a living have sacrificed everything and hustled to get to that point. Do this ‘cause you love it.
FAHRENHEIT 451 @CBGB'S PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
IE: If you guys were to have righted the ship around the time the band broke up… maybe took a few months off and got your heads clear what do you think the next chapter would have been for the band?
Kevin: If we could have righted the ship we should have taken time off and just hung as friends for a bit. What a lot of people don’t know is that us fighting for respect made us become really tight… we really became family. We saw each other damned near everyday whether at the Mermaids in the Bronx (meeting spot for us to smoke weed and hang out at) or being at Hoffman House (Frank and Armando’s pad) or Lenny’s place. The dissolving of the band was like a very sad divorce. We were brothers and to this day still are. It took years for all of us to come to terms with what happened but when we did it was like no time had passed. That’s what family is. I love each and every one of the guys, as family.
Lenny: My take on it is a little different… Armando and I have talked about this over the years, and to be honest even with time off to get things right we probably would have recorded a full length, toured and probably broken up before we did a second record. We all loved each other as family but the last couple of years were rough for us. With the added pressure of trying to make it I think some of us, not all but some of us would have cracked under a year of touring. That’s what I think anyway.
IE: Can you tell everyone what it is you do with yourselves when you are not quarantining in a global pandemic? What about Armando, Frank and Ray who made up the rest of the band. What are they up to these days and are they also involved with playing music still?
Kevin: When not quarantined Frank works for Con Edison so if your lights get turned off that’s Frank fault! Haha… nah, just kidding. He’s got a great job there. Lenny is a unionized iron worker in NYC and he’s worked on some historic places including the Freedom Tower and the new Yankee Stadium. You can catch him telling you to go fuck yourself from 60 feet in the air. Ray hustles pool and works at a warehouse in Jersey. He’s in some kind of managerial spot. Armando believe it or not has worked in some really well know restaurants in NYC as a chef. He has a great mind for cooking and food and being able to create dishes. Me, I’m active duty military and have been in it for 16 years… and no I won’t say what I do ‘cause I’d have to kill you... LMAO just kidding! I’ll leave it with this message to fans of the band and to anyone who listens to the music. We love you all. We achieved what we did because of every kid who bought a demo, a CD, a t-shirt or paid to come to a show. You guys pushed us to become what we were and we are eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you’ve shown us. Stay safe, keep a positive attitude, all bad things pass and will make you a stronger person.
FAHRENHEIT 451 @ CONEY ISLAND HIGH, NYC