St Patrick's Day, 1988 is the day Supertouch played on WNYU's Crucial Chaos Radio Show in NYC which was on Thursday nights from 9pm to 1030pm with the last half hour usually being dedicated to guest bands coming in to play a live set. In 1988 the show was hosted by Spermacide and Johnny Stiff. Religiously tuning in to this show every week was a must to find out about upcoming shows, new releases, news within the scene and hearing bands play live on the radio. The importance of this show must never be forgotten as week in and week out this duo gave a platform for up and coming bands to be heard while also playing music by more well known punk and hardcore bands from around the world. What makes this particular episode so special is the fact that Supertouch put on one amazing performance and also the fact that the majority of the songs they played never made it to their future recordings. When 9pm would roll around on Thursday nights I would be sitting in front of my stereo with my headphones on listening to whatever Spermacide chose to spin and once 10pm came it was time to pop in a cassette and hit record so you could listen later on or make a copy for your friends who may not have been able to tune in. This recording was a favorite of many and made the rounds within the underground tape trading scene for years before being released in 2011 on 12” vinyl by Horror Hotel Records. With the 30 year anniversary of this classic less than 2 months away In Effect tracked down 3 of the 4 members of Supertouch that performed on this night to get their thoughts and memories from a truly historical date in NYHC history. Interviewed were guitarist Jon Biviano, drummer Andy Guida and singer Mark Ryan. Special thanks to CHUN ONE for the amazing artwork, Mike McAuley and Bas Spierings for their graphics work, photographers Carl Gunhouse and John White (for various non-WNYU shots) as well as Marlene “Spermacide” Goldman, Brett Beach, Becky McAuley, and Tim McMahon for their insights as well.
If you have never heard this set before, or had it and lost it you can stream it HERE on You Tube (thanks Alfredge!) or download it from the reliable Blogged And Quartered page HERE (scroll down about half way and click on the “Supertouch The Early Recordings” blue link).
IE: What's up guys? What can you recall and tell us about the night of March 17th, 1988?
Biv: I was living in Belleville, NJ at the time in ‘88, so I was going to school at Montclair State College, and also working at the US Postal Service in Secaucus, NJ. Depending on my schedule, I would get to the USPS when I could in the morning or afternoon after school, and work until 6pm. More than likely I worked until 6 and rushed home to grab my guitar. I also had to borrow an amp that night. A friend of mine in town, Mark Lee, let me use his Peavey A408 Classic 212. So after grabbing my guitar, I picked him up and the amp and headed for NYC. We probably sat in a ton of traffic to get into the Lincoln Tunnel, and headed downtown to pick up Mark Ryan, who I believe was working at Prana (on Ave. A) at the time. From there we went to the studio at NYU. Let me just say also that the car I had was a real beat up Cutlass Oldsmobile. Thing would stall out at traffic lights. A real nightmare of a car. We got to the gig though, no problems.
Andy: I was already working as an electrician’s helper full time. I must have come after work? I didn’t even have a driver’s license so someone drove me, I can’t remember who. I know I had my own kit there. It was a Samson kit, blue sparkle. 20” kick, two 12” rack toms, and a 16” floor tom. Incidentally, my parents bought me that kit, my first, from Adam Tomei who is Marisa Tomei’s brother. We were friendly a million years ago as kids growing up in Midwood, Brooklyn. I had painted the inside of the shells with polyurethane in the hope of improving the sound. It worked, those crappy cheap ass drums sounded great!
IE: Were you frequent listeners to the show?
Biv: Yes, I was a frequent listener of Crucial Chaos, as well as Hell Hole which was in the same time slot a few years earlier. I remember listening to the live sets by Token Entry, Underdog, Aware, and Sand In The Face. Hell Hole and Crucial Chaos turned me onto a lot of stuff.
Andy: I don’t remember listening to the show. I suppose I did sometimes but it seems not enough to leave any memories.
IE: Was this your first time going up to the Crucial Chaos Radio Show? I have been there a bunch of times myself and it is a pretty small room to play in and if I recall correctly there was no PA so hearing your singer was almost impossible. What do you remember about the sound you got that night?
Biv: Mark told us that we would be playing at Crucial Chaos maybe a few days before we did the show. I remember practicing for the show, knowing full well that we would not be able to hear Mark at all. We practiced with this in mind. We did not want any “train wrecks” if you know what I mean. I remember the room was pretty small, so the amps and drums were very loud. We also had some friends who showed up that night, and sang backups with Mark. This was my first and only time at the radio station. I remember looking at the massive racks of vinyl. The library of music was staggering. Then again, any record collection bigger than my own was enviable.
Andy: I had already played Crucial Chaos with Altercation so it was my second time going up there. I remember playing live in the room. I can’t remember if we played with headphones on or just couldn’t hear Mark’s vocals. I think there was no PA. I remember it was loud in the room. Small room with reflective walls and, I think, a window into the control room.
IE: The intro starts off as the first song and on the recording the guitar levels seem to jump all over the place as background noise or possibly a newscast talking about American troops is heard... was this guitar flux noticeable to you guys while you were playing and what about the "American troops" sound that is obvious on the recording of it? Was that you guys doing or are you not sure where that came from?
Biv: We weren't aware of anything else except what was happening in that room. A friend recorded the show over his stereo radio at his home, so when I listened back later and heard the 'American troops' bit, I thought it was my friend tweaking the tune-in knob. Apparently this reporter came through everyone's radio, and is on every recording I've heard of this show. Maybe one of our amps picked up another local radio or TV station. A technical glitch, caught in the moment.
Andy: Since we were live in the room I don’t think we heard the fluctuation in guitar volume. I have no idea what the newscast is about.
IE: To me this is the best example of the Supertouch band that I would see play in the late 80's and everything else simply does not capture what the band was doing at that time. How would you rate this performance energy wise and do you agree with this maybe being your best set?
Biv: The line-up by this time had been together since September of ‘87, so we were well rehearsed and tight. The set we played was actually an old set, with a bunch of DBD songs we still used. As a performance, I think everyone played well. Me and Mike are a little out of tune with each other. My personal opinion is that Andy is the standout performer on this recording. First of all, the drums sound great. He had a small kit made up of random pieces he had been putting together for a few years. He had this kit well tuned and sounding big. Andy pounded the crap out of these songs in that small room.
Andy: I think it’s the best representation of the original lineup that’s been released. I have a bunch of soundboard cassettes from that era but I haven’t listened in so long I can’t say any are better.
IE: You guys played 7 songs that night and most of these never made it to the bands 7" the next year or onto the Revelation full length in 1990. Why?
Biv: Here's a rundown of the fate of each song:
1: "Intro"- I wrote that with Mike Judge when he was in the band from '85-'87. Never properly recorded this, but the NYU version I like. We still play this once in a while.
2: "Climbing Aboard"- Death Before Dishonor song written by Steve Yu and Mark. On the 7", and still in our set today.
3: "True Colors Don't Run"- This is a reconfigured Death Before Dishonor song, which was called "Jump The Gun". I added 2 new riffs to that one, and we came up with this. Mark never wanted to record this one and it was dropped by 1989.
4: "Searching For The Light"- Still in the set today.
5: "Conditioned": A Death Before Dishonor song with a short improvised jam to intro it. Never studio recorded; dropped by 1989.
6: "Struggling To Communicate": Another early song I wrote the music with Mike Judge. Stayed in the set until late '89. Never recorded and dropped by 1990. Would love to revive this one.
7: "Death In The Family": Instrumental Death Before Dishonor song written by Steve Yu. You will have to ask Mark who this song was written for. There is an important story behind it.
Andy: We wanted to expand beyond typical hardcore and play what we came up with rather than trying to fit a genre we thought was too rigid. Supertouch was the third hardcore band I was in. I wanted to play heavy but dynamic music and I was tired of the same old thing.
IE: There is a little bit of mystery to the 5th track which some people have called “Dead Air” as Mark says "dead air" in the beginning of the song, and another version has it listed as :”Deadlock”. Can you clear up the title of this song?
Biv: The song is called “Conditioned”, an old Death Before Dishonor song written by Steve Yu and Mark.
Andy: Holy shit that reggae intro is terrible! And Mike’s bass is badly out of tune throughout.
IE: Towards the end of "Conditioned" Mark makes reference to people talking about white power in the hardcore scene and ends the song by saying Skrewdriver sucks, know what I’m saying? Followed by someone saying whattttttttt? Who says “what” here and was there anything going on with the band having run ins with white power types at this time or was there shit going on within the scene that may be forgotten all these years later that was going on for him to bring that up at the end of that song?
Biv: Andy says, "Whattttt?". He was being silly. He probably didn't even hear what Mark had said in the moment. Mark was saying that Skrewdriver sucked for being a racist/white power band. Reject and resist racism/fascism/intolerance.
Andy: “Whaaat?” is me. I was goofing on Mark’s affectation. There was a right wing racist thing happening with some bands in NYHC at that point. Embarrassingly for me, Altercation was part of that. Around the time of this show I cut off a bunch of new friends because I had to stick with what I believed in and my lifelong friends. I knew I shouldn’t try to fit in with a bunch of people I had just met when they believed such bullshit.
IE: What a lot of people may not realize from this night because it doesn’t show up on any of the old recordings is that Murphy’s Law played for about 8 minutes after your last song "Death In The Family". Was this something that was planned ahead of time? Did you guys run out of songs to play? What was the reason for giving them some of your timeslot on this night?
Biv: This was planned ahead. They used our gear and everything was cool.
IE: Mark ends with "Look for us to tour with Murphy’s Law maybe".... Did this ever materialize?
Biv: Never toured with Murphy's Law, but played a lot of local shows with them.
Andy: We never toured with them. But Jimmy did put us on a lot of great shows opening for them. We got to open for Bad Brains and Murphy’s Law at The Ritz because Jimmy got us on the show. He was a big help.
Biv picked me up from Prana on 1st Avenue between 7th Street and St Marks, where I was working at the time with Chaka from Burn and Alan from Quicksand. Later on Sam Mc Pheeters, Norman Brannon, Sasha Jenkins, Joshua Wildman and countless others would end up working there as well. NY was wild back then and I knew it was important to help people from the scene get jobs because we were all a little too wild to get hired at some normal place. Vinnie from Unsane was one of the first cats to work there and then people like Richie Birkenhead and John Watson was an OG working at the restaurant part of the store called Ahimsa (on 1st Avenue and 9th Street where the pizza spot is now).
I went to the bodega and grabbed a couple of 40's. One for each pocket of my Carhartt and we rolled to NYU. I was in awe as soon as we walked in. This was my first time inside the station, couldn't believe we were playing here. A little bit of history… I grew up on the altar of college radio, WFMU every day after school, WNYU New Afternoon Show and most importantly, Tim Sommer's Noise The Show on WNYU which was the pulse of the burgeoning hardcore and NYHC scene and aside from the actual shows at the time, this was what everyone waited for all week, listened to, taped, talked about and dissected every song and every Tim Sommer quote for years to come. This music was still brand new at this time and it's hard to describe how magical those couple of years felt. Everyone knew they were part of something special. I would grab my mom's car keys from her bag and sneak down into her beat up powder blue Pinto, turn on WNYU and lay down on the floor of the backseat with some jackets draped over me and hope no one from my building would rat me out. Eventually the baton was handed to Crucial Chaos, which we were all fans of and everyone in NYHC at this time was tuned in every week. Spermicide did an amazing job. I'm glad we didn't find out that we were going to play until the week of the performance. Enough time to get excited and get in some practice but still keep it raw. Murphy's Law being there too was huge for us as well. We loved those guys and it was really a big deal for us to play with them.
We didn't have much time to set up our equipment, all of a sudden we were just playing, adjusting very quickly once we were going. We had no time to think, we were filled with fire. Just a bunch of young hardcore kids amped out of our fucking minds. I couldn't hear what I was singing because the vocals went direct. Listening to this recording, it was the best thing that could have happened for this performance. It pushed me to make up for what I couldn't hear with more energy and more heart. I couldn't get nervous about how I sounded because I had no idea how I sounded. So I just sang the way I wanted to sound. I was fueled by the energy and music in the room, as well as the history of that room. Not to mention downtown New York was so wild and electric at this time and I can hear the way that (insanity) was flowing through us.
Looking back at this recording, I really wish we recorded a 7" at Don Fury's with THIS lineup at THIS time with Biv on guitar, MIke Bitton on bass (also played for Token Entry) and Andy from Altercation on drums. We overthought everything at the time and were always trying to grow as a band and always thought that somehow if we waited a little longer the recording would be that much better because we would have grown that much more as musicians. Years later you figure out that it's never going to turn out perfect. Glad that this era is at least captured on this recording. “Death In The Family” was an old Death Before Dishonor song written by Mike Judge, the Yu brothers and I right after the passing of one of our closest friends John Nordquist. My friend Matt asked if he could press the WNYU set on vinyl. Never thought about doing it before but I'm glad he was persistent. We did it in conjunction with his label Horror Hotel. I think the next thing up for them is a super limited color vinyl release (166 copies) of the Hellbent discography that Radio Raheem is putting out which I'm looking forward to as well.
MORE THOUGHTS ON SUPERTOUCH'S 3/17/88 SET:
MARLENE "SPERMACIDE" GOLDMAN: (CRUCIAL CHAOS DJ)...
Finally got a chance to sit down and listen to the Supertouch tracks and definitely brought back some memories. Some random thoughts... First I have to say I'm grateful for everyone keeping the old Chaos shows alive on You Tube, In Effect and other places. I literally have a trunk full of cassettes from my Crucial Chaos years that I finally had sent from New York to San Francisco last year and this year I plan to have most everything digitized so I can share them from my end too. I have all my old playlists somewhere I have to dig up too. Supertouch was one of my favorites of that era and I remember being super pumped when I found out they were coming up to play live. We always had a lot of requests from the listeners to hear them, and their 7" was in my regular rotation. I usually let Johnny Stiff set up the roster of interviews and live bands though sometimes set them up directly myself. The live sets were a challenge since the engineer had to get a little bit of a soundcheck in while I was DJ-ing, so I had to dig up songs longer than a minute or so to let him do his thing. Usually the first song was a little rough in the mix but he always adjusted everything quickly and we had some amazing sounding sets up there. The word chaos definitely fit when it came to keeping in check all the friends of bands who would turn up to hang out during the set. I had to put names on a list for the NYU guard downstairs, but invariably a bunch more would show up not on the list and someone had to go downstairs to sign them in. I don't remember how many there were on that night, but any time Jimmy G was up at the station it was a party. It was hard at the time to comprehend the staying power of what we were doing… that this might be the only recordings for some bands.
BRETT BEACH: HARDWARE FANZINE...
Supertouch were the ultimate “live tape” band. Anyone who went to shows in the tri-state area from 1987 to 1990 saw Supertouch a million times, and most loved them. You wanted to listen to them at home to memorize all of “Climbin’ Aboard”, but without even a demo you only had the comp track until your buddy said, “Yo, I got a copy of Supertouch on NYU.” And then it was on. If you were lucky you got a copy of the 10/87 Anthrax set too and were ready for the next Supertouch show.
BECKY MCAULEY: I QUESTION NOT ME FANZINE...
“Supertouch doin’ it live on WNYU, St. Patrick’s Day!” is one of the most iconic live phrases in hardcore, right up there with “everybody, everywhere, tear this place down.” These utterances have become part of our collective parlance, shared far beyond those who witnessed the event in person or on the radio, and repeated by hardcore kids across the world. Or in the case of the Supertouch set, invoked on social media on March 17 annually. The WNYU set contains many of the elements that make for a memorable live recording, from energy to banter to songs not available anywhere else. It was my first exposure to Death Before Dishonor tunes like “True Colors” and the mysterious fifth track that started a lengthy hunt for its accurate title, which is finally only resolved by this In Effect feature! As someone who got into Supertouch just 14 years ago, I didn’t know if I would ever get to see them live. Luckily I’ve had many opportunities since then, from the 2007 Brooklyn reunion to the BNB Bowl to their set at Generation Records in NYC. But if I had never seen them in the flesh, the Live on WNYU recording would have been the next best thing.
TIM MCMAHON: DOUBLECROSSXX/SEARCH
Although my introduction to Supertouch was from “Searching For The Light” on Revelation’s “Together” compilation and “The Way It Is” comp, it was the “Live on WNYU” set that gave me more of a taste of what this band was all about. Considering the Combined Effort 7” didn’t come out until 1989, the live on WNYU tape that was being circulated in 1988 almost served as a 7” before the 7”. As most live on WNYU sets were, this Supertouch set was about as iconic as it got and my friends and I were always quoting, “Yo what’s up everyone, Supertouch doing it live on WNYU, St. Patrick’s Day, Climbing Aboard”! Hearing songs like “True Colors Don’t Run”, “Deadlock”, “Struggling To Communicate” and “A Death In The Family” proved to be a real treat, since those songs never reached vinyl. Seeing Supertouch live back then was also always a treat and the live on WNYU set helped piece the puzzle together.