2017 is getting off to a good start with news that NY's Kill Your Idols will be getting back together to play shows and write new material on a permanent basis. Returning are Andy West on vocals and Gary Bennett on guitar with previous members Mike D. (bass) and Vinnie Verga (drums) making their return as well. KYI started out in 1995 and had an amazing run that lasted through 2007. Back in 2013 the band reunited for some shows with the last one being dubbed "last show ever". What we learned here is to never say never when it comes to hardcore bands. Just a few weeks back we reached out to guitarist Gary Bennett to get the lowdown on what to expect from KYI in the immediate future. I'm sure many of you will be glad to hear this news and read what Gary has to say. Lead photo by: Ken Penn with additional photos by: Wass Photography, Jason Bergman and Angela Datre of www.HowWeAre.net Graphics by: Bas Spierings
IE: What's up Gary? In 2013 KYI made some waves by reuniting after a 6 year absence first at the Black ‘N Blue Bowl in NYC and then with a few more shows to finish out 2013. Since then there have been a few more shows here and there but always with no promises of a full on comeback... and that is until now. What has changed within the core of this unit that made you want to flip the switch back to on?
Gary: Each time we did a comeback, Andy and I had enjoyed doing it so much, that we had hoped we could keep it going, even if on a small level. Paul and Raeph enjoyed it, but didn't think we should keep doing it. So, each time, it ended up being "Last shows EVER" and what not. Which never happens in any band, unless it’s Minor Threat, or everyone's dead. Life is a circle. So, Me, Paul, and Raeph were doing Black Anvil, which was full on, for me at the time and still for those guys. Black Anvil requires lots of focus. The band is signed to Relapse Records and does a bit of touring. Writing a record is more complex for Black Anvil. So, KYI wasn't something we could continue doing. We would have been half-assing both bands. This past year, I left Black Anvil, amicably, simply because I didn't feel I was an asset to the band any longer. I was holding them back. Those guys are my brothers, I've been playing with them in KYI and Black Anvil combined for like 20 years. So, out of respect for what we were doing, I quit, but not before playing on the newest LP, "As Was", which is a crowning achievement for Black Anvil. After that, I wasn't really too sure where I'd end up as a player. But I always end up somewhere.
IE: Throughout the bands existence it has always been yourself and Andy as the mainstays with other former members having done some long stints as well. Please tell us about this lineup which is again yourself and Andy as the mainstays but also brings Vinnie (drums) and Mike D. (bass) back into the fold.
Gary: At one point, Raeph was going through some stuff, and not really focusing, so he ended up out of the band. We were gonna break up then, I think. But then Vinnie came in, and it was like we got some extra life breathed into us. In addition to drumming, he took on the booking aspect, which Andy was kinda sick of. Paul left shortly after to go full time with None More Black. Mike D. was filling in for Paul here and there, so he ended up permanent. The writing process became a bit more energized with new blood, and we recorded "Companionship", which is a great final LP. We did a small amount of real touring with this line-up, but it's one of the more well-known line-ups.
IE: Way back when this band hit its stride you guys were a relentless touring band that were probably out on tour the majority of the year. Now that you are all a little older, some with families and other adult responsibilities like jobs to support these families how hard (or easy) will it be to not get sucked back into that way of operating the band?
Gary: Touring is the hardest job we've ever done, for the least amount of money. So, it's safe to say that the reason we still do this is because it's our passion. We all have real jobs that support us well, and our families count on us. So, the band will exist in a way that's manageable for all of us. If we can play, we will. If one person cannot make it, we won't book it. We also do not wanna beat this thing into the ground. KYI is real special to all involved. We want each time we do this to be a special event. Not "oh…they just played... I'll see 'em next time." Or worse .."Ugh.. just break up already" ha! People take things for granted these days.
IE: Leading up to the 2013 reunion we did an interview with Andy and he mentioned that out in public he would have a lot of random people come up to him at places like the supermarket, on the train and just random meetings where people would ask him to please get Kill Your Idols back together for various reasons. Have you had similar experiences both before the 2013 reunion and since then?
Gary: I moved into a new neighborhood on Long Island like 3 years ago, and everywhere I went, I ran into young kids who recognized my tattoo or my face and went ape shit that I was in KYI. I was a meter reader for the power company at that time, and often I'd knock on a door to read the meter, and a kid would answer, and be like "dude... you're in KYI.. why are you reading my meter?!" As if I'm in Metallica. Haha! Very flattering! Now I have a more internal job in the power company, and a lot of the guys I work with know me from shows. It's cool. The band lives on, whether or not we are broken up. And that's nice to know.
IE: When you told me the band was getting back together one of the first things you said was you were already working on new songs. KYI has always had a distinct sound that has never really strayed too far from your roots. Will the new songs stay in that same vein or has old age creeped in anywhere within your musical tastes where you may want to add some new bits and pieces to the formula?
Gary: What I actually said was; we are having so much fun practicing, and the enthusiasm is very high, so writing new material is not out of the question. However, before we put KYI back on the saddle, I rejoined Sheer Terror recently, and committed to writing some new stuff with them. So, that has to happen first. Writing for someone else's band is a bit harder than something that's 100% your own. To answer your question, if and when we get around to it, the material will write itself because the inspiration is there. I'm positive it will not be a full length, though. I have no interest in doing a full length, at least not now. It would be a short EP or 7". Something that will leave you wanting to hear more. That's what's missing these days. People's attention span is not what it was, and I'm not interested in re-inventing the band so we can come up with enough interesting material to fill a full length. It would be the KYI that everyone expects. Short blasts of immediate inspiration, no longer that the first Minor Threat EP. That's how hardcore is meant to be.
KILL YOUR IDOLS @ NYC'S GRAMERCY THEATRE 12/29/16. PHOTO BY: ANGELA DATRE
IE: How important is it for everyone in this band to come back and write new music and not just come back and play the crowd favorites? Looking at the current day hardcore scene there are some bands that have reunited for quite a while and seem ok with just playing songs from their earlier years.
Gary: One thing is true in hardcore and metal.. if you're any sort of classic band, by and large, new material is less welcome at a show. The Cro-Mags have been playing the "Age Of Quarrel" set for years now, along with some Bad Brains and occasional Ramones covers. No matter how much shit anyone talks.. that's what everyone wants to see and keeps coming back to see. If they made a new album, everyone would somehow compare it to "Age Of Quarrel". No matter how great it is. Some bands make comebacks and make great new music. I'll use Sheer Terror as an example. The last record with the new lineup is incredible, and stands up to any prior releases. I'm proud to say I had a small hand in that record. But most people would be fine paying to see Sheer Terror play the first 2 LP's. I'm not outside that equation. I'm guilty of only wanting to see and hear what I know best. Celtic Frost made a big comeback and completely re-invented themselves in doing so. It was the hardest, most triumphant comeback of a band I'd ever seen. The "Monotheist" album was incredible. But live, they gave the people what they wanted… mostly songs from the first 2 records. I was happy! It's nostalgia. If my mom goes out to see Jay & The Americans, he's gonna play his own hits, and contemporary hits from the 50’s and 60’s. My mom don't give a shit if he has new material. She don't care about his need to stretch his boundaries and be an artist… she just wants to re-live her youth! And that's why Jay & The Americans gives the crowd what they want. That's why Misfits don't ever need to write a new song ever again. Having said all this, the heyday of KYI was a very special time for everyone involved. Newer fans seem to like our old records enough and we certainly released enough of them. So, new material might be cool, but we are mainly interested in giving people what they want. And if they're having fun, it's worth every minute. Nothing is ruled out. But at this stage of most our lives, taking care of our kids supersedes writing an LP. So, when we get out there to play, we just need to play. Speaking for myself, writing has been such an important component for so for so long. I'm ok with taking a break. Not forcing it. Let things happen naturally.
MIKE D. & KYI 12/29/16 @ NYC'S GRAMERCY THEATRE. PHOTO BY: ANGELA DATRE
IE: We mentioned earlier that you and Andy have always been the mainstays in this band. Do you remember how you both first met and how was KYI initially thought up or conceived? Was it something that just happened by chance or was it more of a thing where you were close and it was inevitable?
Gary: We were both mutual friends of Vinnie Segerra, singer of the Long Island band Situated Chaos. He also booked shows and did a label called Mint Tone records. Vinnie released a 7" of my old band, Big Sniff. We broke up, and Andy had expressed his interest in forming a hardcore band. Vinnie introduced us. It went from there. Vinnie also was gonna release our first EP through a label he was working at called Bittersweet Records... they paid for the recording. When they went out of business, they allowed us to keep it. Not without some begging and prodding… but ultimately. We released it on None Of The Above later on. We named KYI in honor of Vinnie. Situated Chaos had a song called "Kill Your Idols". Lyrically, it spoke to us.
KILL YOUR IDOLS @ THIS IS HARDCORE FEST 2013, PHILADELPHIA, PA. PHOTO BY: WASS PHOTOGRAPHY
IE: Who were some of your early influences in regards to picking up the guitar and wanting to play? Please give some example in regular rock/hard music and also from within hardcore music if it applies.
Gary: I grew up listening to lots of hard rock and metal, everything, really. I liked lots of music. The first rock record I ever played on my Winnie The Pooh record player that wasn't some kiddie music record was Paul McCartney and Wings "Band On The Run". The guitar part in the "if I ever get outta here" part is really heavy… or was, for back then. Still is to me. That song builds. I always loved it. I must have played that 45 a million times. I do remember trying to play that riff… just the root notes of it because I didn't know chords yet. The notes were right, but I couldn't achieve the sound that was on that record. That definitely drove me to learn. I also learned the notes to "We don't need no education" from Pink Floyd… that's actually really heavy. "The Wall" is pretty heavy. The opening track "In The Flesh" is heavy as fuck. I tried learning that too. When MTV first aired, it was awesome. I got into so much good music through MTV, it's a shame what that network became. It used to be the greatest thing. I saw Motörhead on MTV, Cro-Mags "We Gotta Know" video eventually. I fucking loved Adam Ant. I saw a video of Ozzy playing "Iron Man" from the "Speak Of The Devil" tour, and there were laser lights forming an evil bat.. Ozzy had devil tights on and Brad Gillis' guitar tone was so fucking heavy.. all that shit made me wanna play music.
IE: When this band started you came along playing a raw throwback style of hardcore at a time when the chugga-chugga metalcore and windmill spin kicks were totally the in thing in the hardcore scene. What was the response at first to your sound and style and how long did it take for the band to start to grow a decent following?
Gary: Oddly enough, by the time I started this band with Andy, I had kinda hit a wall with Big Sniff and was discouraged by music. I played bass in Clockwise a bit too. But I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with it. We left the state maybe once or twice collectively and I had started a real union job, and decided to start a band that would just be like "bowling night" for me. And "get serious" with life, haha! So, we took a look at what was going on in hardcore, and decided "Fuck it. Let's just play raw, fast, old school shit like Negative Approach, old Agnostic Front, old 7-Seconds, Minor Threat.. we'll make a demo and play local. It'll be fun. No one will like it, but it'll be fun." And people actually DID like it. Some didn't… we were HATED by some who were actually outspoken in their hate for us. Someone actually publicly smashed our demo tape and stamped on it with her feet, at a show. Then later on apologized when she saw which way the wind was blowing. It was amazing. We actually built up a crew of kids that followed us out of state and everything. We never imagined it could be that way. Later on, the work became harder, but in the beginning, we sailed right into position. In what seemed like no time, we had bands like H2O asking us to open for them. Just months before that, we were listening to their 7 inch and saying "Wouldn't it be cool if we could play with bands like this?". It also helped matters that while KYI was forming, by the time we had our demo out, I joined Serpico on guitar and did my first ever tour of the USA. I gave out demos all over. I also ended up playing in Sheer Terror for the first time, and went all over the Northeast and to Europe for the first time by the time our 12" EP was out. I landed in Europe with KYI promo cassettes, only to find out we already had a following with kids asking me "When is KYI coming?" Being in Sheer Terror is what sparked Bill Wilson of Blackout! Records’ interest in KYI. I played him a cassette of our 12" EP, and he immediately wanted our next record. I have to give a lot of our success credit to being in Serpico for a short time, and to being in Sheer Terror. I went from settling on an adult job, and possibly "settling down", to touring and recording constantly.
IE: What was it like for you growing up on Long Island and how did you and your friends first find out about hardcore music? What were some of the things you remember that drew you into it? First shows you remember going to as well?
Gary: I got into hardcore through listening to rap and metal, long before the two officially crossed paths. I wasn't ignorant of punk. I had Clash records when I was like 9 or 10. I loved Adam Ant and Devo, too. I got into Metallica, Slayer, S.O.D., Suicidal Tendencies, and Cro-Mags about the same time. Then I got into Ludichrist and Crumbsuckers, and realized they were all local guys. Members of Ludichrist and In Your Face lived in my town. I'd see Marc from In Your face skating around my block with weird hair and a Murphy's Law jacket. A couple of years later, I'd knock on his door and bothered him to jam with me, and Big Sniff was formed with him, and members of Ludichrist and Sheer Terror.. so, it all came together just like that for me. As far as going to shows, my friends and I became hardcore and went WHEREVER we could to see a show. Sundance, Right Track Inn, Reds on Long Island... take the train to the city, go to CBGB’s, L’amour, Ritz, Wetlands.. we were metal heads that found the real hardcore scene. My first real hardcore show (all hardcore bands, no metal headliner) was Bold, Gorilla Biscuits, and Youth Of Today at Sundance… Bayshore, Long Island. But I'd seen Sick Of It All and Leeway open for Nuclear Assault, shows like that were blood baths. I saw the Hawker Records show at CBGB;s with Token Entry, Wrecking Crew, No For An Answer, and Rest In Pieces.. they released a live record of that. That was one of my first, if not my first city hardcore show.
IE: Getting back to that same time period when you started finding out about hardcore were you already a guitarist or did you decide to become one based off of seeing bands play and wanting to do that?
Gary: I started noodling on my grandfather’s acoustic guitar in his attic when I was young. He had a Lowery organ I actually played more. I was learning Christmas songs by ear. One day he heard me playing the Star Wars theme on one of the 2 strings left on his guitar.. he re-strung it with 6 strings and showed me how to tune it, and 3 chords. Soon after, I started playing Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath riffs (sloppily), but he decided to give me his electric guitar. It was an old Silvertone from the 60's, with an amp built into the case. Perfect beginner guitar. I wasn't that good. I was better on keyboard. But I bought my first Misfits record, "Legacy Of Brutality". That music is so awesome, but it's very clear that these guys were really rudimentary musicians! When I realized that you didn't need to be Eddie Van Halen to make good music, I started jamming with anyone I knew around town with a drum set. Playing Misfits covers, trying Sabbath and Zeppelin.. working up to Metallica and Maiden.. getting better and better. When I first saw Sheer Terror at Sundance on Long Island, Alan Blake's guitar tone blew me away. He was only an OK guitarist by a musicians standard, but his tone and chord changes were so fucking heavy. I knew that was the key. If you sounded good, you can always get better as you go along. You can make a simple guitar solo sound great if your tone is awesome. Once I saw my first club show, and saw the local openers, I realized "I can do this". My band of high school friends played a talent show at the high school. We played a Sex Pistols song, and Slayer. It was awesome. The following year, we played Slayer and Nuclear Assault covers and all our friends were moshing violently and stage diving in a school auditorium! When they tried to close the curtain, we ripped into "Hang The Pope".. we walked in front of the curtains and kept playing! We were disqualified, suspended... the crowd went wild and we ruled. I was hooked.
KILL YOUR IDOLS IN BROOKLYN, NY CIRCA 2007. PHOTO BY: JASON BERGMAN
IE: Kill Your Idols initially ended in 2007, what had you been doing musically since then?
Gary: First, I started Deathcycle with Ron Grimaldi. We existed during and after KYI. During that time, I also started up Black Anvil with Paul and Raeph. We also existed during and after KYI. When Paul Bearer re-formed Sheer Terror, he initially asked if myself, Paul, and Raeph could just be in Sheer Terror, but Black Anvil was too busy at the time. So I helped him put the band together with Mike D. on guitar, Anthony Corallo on drums. Mike got Jay Carter to play bass. But Mike and I have been switching on and off guitar duties ever since, ha! At this time I'm in Sheer Terror again, and I'm writing new music with them. KYI came together again because we were asked to do a benefit, which I wanted to be a part of. But I couldn't solidify the line-up with Paul and Raeph. So I got Mike D. and Vinnie to play covers with me, with Dean from No Redeeming Social Value singing. We just did lots of our favorite hardcore covers, and we called it HARDCORE JUKEBOX. The night we played, we had Ernie from Grey Area/Token Entry come up and sing a song or two, play drums on a song, Jay Warzone played "As One" on my guitar, Marc In Your Face sang "Nervous Breakdown" with Ernie on drums, and we had Andy jump up and sing 6 KYI songs. It was a small show, but it was off the hook. We had a blast. We raised almost 1000 dollars for the family of Rob McAllister of Capital/Iron Chic, who passed tragically this past year. Soon after, Christian McKnight heard about this reunion, and asked if we could actually do this KYI line-up and open for Dag Nasty in NYC. I had gotten tired of saying "no" and being so elusive about KYI. It's fun, and people have fun when we play. We aren't on this earth for long.. may as well have fun.
IE: What else, if anything do you have to add here? I know the idea of you guys getting back together is still something that is fresh and new but maybe if there is something you want to pass on to people who follow KYI closely as you have always had one of the most loyal fan bases within the hardcore scene. When I check out the band’s Facebook page I see people already saying come to Europe and one saying come to Australia. As flattering as that can be what are the realistic goals for 2017?
Gary: For me, Sheer Terror is music project priority ONE at this time. I gave those guys my commitment to help write and play whenever I can. Paul Bearer understands my family/work situation, so there is an additional guitarist in Sheer Terror now, Johnny “Eggz” Viola. Sheer Terror is now a five piece but if I can't travel to play a show, Johnny holds it down. Or vice/versa. For KYI, we want to keep it going… but we wanna keep it special. We are taking it slowly and as it comes. We aren't trying to conquer the world. We just want to be there when the time is right. Last year, John Joseph of Cro-Mags asked if KYI could play a benefit for a little boy who needed cancer removed from his brain. That hits home for me. I've got a little boy of my own who I love more than air. And I've got a step brother who is disabled because he had brain cancer as a little boy. I had to turn down that show because KYI couldn't just set our personal shit aside and play. There's other bands around to raise money and that show did the job. But being a part of doing the greater good is important to me. I'm trying to teach my son those values. We are very fortunate to be a part of something like the NY and Long Island hardcore scene. I don't wanna take that for granted ever again.