Welcome to part 3 of In Effect Hardcore’s KNOW YOUR SCENE, a feature that seems to be pretty popular with readers where we try to shed some light on people within our little scene doing good things. When I go to a local show and see people I do not know I sometimes wonder what they do when they are not raging through a mosh pit or jumping off a 15 foot high speaker. This time around we got 3 more New Yawkers. First up is graffiti artist/sticker slapper Chris “Robots Will Kill”. His iconic robot logos pop up just about everywhere art is consumed and he is a real busy dude getting his brand out there. Second is Scott Geminn who initially wrote in to In Effect to become a writer here and over the last 2 years or so has contributed a bunch of record reviews. Scott is also a pastor at a Lutheran Church in Westchester County, NY and married with 2 kids. When you get to his interview that is him singing along with Freddy Madball at a recent show in Brooklyn! Last but not least is Roger Clark… old school punk/hardcore dude who is a reporter for NY1 News. He has had on camera interviews with various members of the punk and hardcore scene and shows he is still down for the cause. He also drums for a local band called perp Walk. In Effect salutes these 3 individuals and the many more like them that keep our music scene alive and well. Artwork by: Chris RWK. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
CHRIS- ROBOTS WILL KILL
IE: Hey Chris, can you first introduce yourself and then give us a short introduction to what Robots Will Kill is all about?
Chris RWK: Sure, most people know me as ChrisRWK or Chris from Robots Will Kill. Born, raised and ruined in New York. Specifically Staten Island but when I turned 13 and knew how to get into the city that's where I would go on the weekends… especially for shows and stuff. At the time I'm doing this I'm 40 years old and still in New York. Robots Will Kill started as a website that would showcase artists of all types of mediums. Especially those overlooked like graffiti, stickers etc. Over time it's become somewhat of an art collective but when you say RWK or Robots Will Kill most people identify me with it, especially the robot.
IE: When and how did you find out about punk rock and hardcore? What were some of the first records/CD's you got? First shows? Who got you into it?
Chris RWK: My brother was into metal for a long time. He would bring home Iron Maiden records probably around 1984 but in 1988 he brought home something different. I heard him listening to something that sounded full of energy. Don't get me wrong I love Maiden but this was different. So I went and asked him what it was. He told me it was hardcore. I loved the metal album covers and how elaborate they were but when I saw this more raw packaging it was easier for me to relate to. He then started to go to more and more hardcore shows and bringing home more and more records. The first one I was hooked on was Slapshot "Back On The Map". Especially the idea of straight edge. Since hearing that record I've been straight edge. He had this shirt that I loved. It was a guy in the hockey mask holding a hockey stick and it said "Boston: Where The Men Are Men And The Meat Is Red". I begged him to get it for me for Christmas. He did. I still have a pic of me wearing it. So I would make tapes of all these 7”s, records, demos etc. Some other bands were Sick Of It All, Gorilla Biscuits, Token Entry, Uniform Choice, No For An Answer, Misfits, In Your Face, Killing Time, Murphy's Law, Judge and Youth Of Today. So yeah my brother is the one who introduced me to hardcore. I then showed all my friends. I was so excited when him and his friends would come back from a show and tell me the hardcore tales. Most shows were 16 and over, especially at CBGBs so I couldn't go. First show I went to that I remember was Killing Time in the early 90's. Then after that I went to any show I could. I loved trooping to the city with friends to see shows. The whole experience was incredible. That and road trips to random spots in New Jersey. One of my favorite shows was Sick Of It All and Shelter at City Gardens. That's the one where Youth Of Today did a reunion at.
IE: How did the concept and name Robots Will Kill get started? Why robots?
Chris RWK: In 1999 I was doing an art fellowship up in Vermont and my friend Chris Rini was working on a painting, the painting was a giant cellphone that was holding up a human to where it's ear would be. So he said what do you think and I just looked up and laughed and said "Ha, robots will kill". So I started writing it on stickers and stuff but held on to the name for something more important. The idea of it was more along the lines of if you do something so much it becomes robotic and kills the reason you did it in the first place. That could be work, art, music etc. I wanted it to have that feeling of never letting it get to that point. Never forget the reason you started it.
IE: How has RWK evolved since you started?
Chris RWK: I always drew… when my friends were playing football and stuff I'd rather draw. I'd copy comics and make my own. Gary Larsen was a huge influence. So when I found graffiti, again around 1988 it was a natural progression. Also my brother and his friends were doing graffiti. It really wasn't until high school when I found other kids into graff. While in high school I never thought about college until my art teacher asked me what I was going to do. I said I guess community college. She said no way… you are going to go to art school. That really showed me stuff like galleries and how that all worked. So when I launched Robots Will Kill in 2001 I had already been showing and selling work. At the same time I was still painting walls, doing stickers etc. As far as changing, well the reason I wanted to launch Robotswillkill.com was in 2000 I would go to galleries and try to show them my slides and portfolio but they wouldn't even look. They would just say "how old are you?" And I would just reply "what does that matter?" So that year I met up with my friend Kevin who was a website genius. I told him I wanted to start a website that would show all types of artwork. No matter age, gender, location etc. So we started to build the site. It was a lot of work but it was an incredible feeling seeing people visit the site from all over the world and just spend hours looking at art. Back then there weren’t a lot of graff sites and back then people would look at a site for hours. Not like today. The merch would help bring money in for maintenance and would also work as a great advertising tool. People would see the stickers and wonder what it was.
IE: From talking to you it seems you keep busy with everything surrounding RWK. What is the day to day operation like with RWK activities? Is RWK your "real job" and if not what is it that you do occupation wise?
Chris RWK: RWK isn't my full time job. I’ve had a union job for 16 years. The average day for me is: Wake up at 6am and out the door by 7am. I commute for 2 hours to work. I drive to the train station… then train to ferry to subway to walking to my job. So on the ferry is when I do a lot of sketching and on the trains I answer emails, check social media etc. then 9-5 I work my job. On lunch break I draw some more and answer emails etc. During the day I do draw on post notes to keep my brain active. Then I'm out at 5pm and do the 2 hour commute home. Usually repeating what I did on the way in. I get home about 7pm and do dinner with the family and hang with them till around 10pm. Then I start painting and designing stuff. So I do that till around 2-3am and then go to sleep and start it all over again. Oh I also pack orders and do all the postage stuff and bring it with me to work the next day to drop at the post office. Weekends I usually paint. canvases, murals… whatever needs to be done.
IE: Your younger cousin is also into hardcore and has been in a few bands as well. What bands and were you the one who introduced him to it?
Chris RWK: Yes Andrew Vacante. He's in Combust, Impact and a few other bands. He was also the singer for Vice. He was listening to stuff like Iron Maiden, Slipknot etc. I told him next time I see you I'll give you some records that will change your life. I said Maiden is great but eventually you'll get tired of songs about history and war and you'll wanna hear songs with something deeper. So I gave him Cro-Mags and Indecision cause I figured it was crossover enough. Next thing I know is he's telling me that he couldn't understand what they were saying. I said keeping listening. You'll get it. Next thing I know he's asking me to load a hard drive full of music for him. I think he was around 11 when I took him to his first show. It was Avail at the Knitting Factory. After that he was hooked. I'm really proud of all he's done with music… the shows he has thrown and the records he's put out.
IE: What does the future hold for RWK? Do you ever vision doing it as your full time job?
Chris RWK: I have a bunch of shows coming up and new merch. I don't know if I want it to be my full time job. If you asked me 10 years ago I'd say hell no! But nowadays I can see it being my full time thing but not a full time job. What's that old saying, it's not work if you love what you do.
SCOTTSINGING ALONG WITH FREDDY MADBALL. PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
IE: Hey Scott, can you start off by telling us a little bit about how and when you discovered hardcore and punk music? What were some of the first albums you remember getting and some of the first shows you remember going to? How old were you when you first got into it?
Scott: I was 15 when I first got into hardcore through a close friend of mine in high school. He was really into the New York bands like Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All and Madball. I remember he played a song from Madball’s “DMS” album while we were hanging out in homeroom and I was hooked. I immediately began to buy hardcore records wherever I could find them. Sick Of It All’s “Blood, Sweat, And No Tears” and Madball’s “Set It Off” were the first two albums that I got and listened to nonstop. I immediately connected with the sound and style. My first hardcore show was Sub Zero and Murphy’s Law in November 1997 at 7 Willow Street in Portchester. I then saw Murphy’s Law again at CB’s a month later, then No Redeeming Social Value at the Smokey Tooth in Yonkers which was cool because I walked to that show.
IE: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Where do you live these days?
Scott: I grew up in Yonkers, right by Woodlawn in the Bronx. I had a pretty average childhood, nothing out of the ordinary. I am the youngest of three and I got to credit my older brother for giving me a taste for heavy music. He was into Pantera, Metallica, and others and since we shared a room I had access to that stuff. These days I live right next door to Yonkers in the affluent community of Bronxville which is a bit surreal at times.
IE: You are also a pastor at a Lutheran Church here in NY. At what age did you make the decision to be a pastor or at least make a move to become a pastor? What was the process like to become a pastor?
Scott: I would say I made the decision around the age of 21 when I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was always deeply interested in Jesus of Nazareth. While in college I was taking theology courses as electives and really enjoying them. Growing up, I had always been around Lutheran pastors because my mom worked for the district (archdiocese) for the Lutheran church in our area and they were very encouraging that this was a path I should pursue. As a result, I moved out to St. Louis to attend seminary which consisted of a rigorous four year academic program where I learned the biblical languages of Hebrew and Koine Greek, the ins and outs of Lutheran theology, how to preach and understand the scriptures in their context.
IE: How does being a fan of hardcore music "jive" with being a pastor? I mean, although hardcore does have a lot of positive messages there is also a lot of anger and negativity too. Do you not listen to bands with more of a negative vibe or do you choose to tune those types of messages out?
Scott: That’s a really good question. Believe it or not I’m not too big on the more positive bands or the posi-core stuff. Though, for me it has become a balancing act of sorts. There are certain bands that I used to listen to a lot that I can’t really listen to anymore because the intensity of the anger, hatred and negativity wears at my soul. At the same time though anger is a legitimate emotion that needs to be acknowledged and there are a lot of things that still anger me on a regular basis. My wife likes to remind me that anger is a manifestation of hurt. We can’t avoid being hurt in this life which means we can’t avoid getting angry… it’s just a matter of what we do with that anger; will we seek to use it as a force for good or ill? With that said I find that I still need the outlet that hardcore provides. I think what people may not realize is that often we pastors are dealing with a lot of the ugly aspects of life. We are often helping people in some very dark moments and often there are times when there’s not much that we can do other than listen. For me, a band like Sick Of It All helps me to process my anger and frustrations in honest and constructive ways.
IE: Are there any other things that hardcore may do or stand for that clashes ideology wise with you being a pastor?
Scott: I think the embedded assumption or belief that violence can alleviate or solve problems. That’s something that I’ve really left behind from my younger days because of my own life experiences and developments. I’ve really come to believe that love for one’s enemies is the way to go, however, challenging it may be.
IE: Do the people that attend your church know about your love for hardcore music and if they do have you ever had any awkward moments trying to explain it? Have you ever had anyone attend that may appear to be into punk or maybe heavier music? If you saw someone that looked like they were into punk would you initiate a conversation about it?
Scott: Some do, the older people don’t get it but some of the younger people do. In fact, there’s one guy who I talk music with every Sunday or whenever I see him. He recently borrowed the Harley Flanagan and Roger Miret biographies from me which is pretty funny when you think about it. Every so often someone may attend but it’s more a rarity than anything else. Actually, we’ve had the lead singer of a prominent metal band and his wife attend here from time to time because his father is a Lutheran pastor who sometimes preaches for us. They’re really cool people so it’s always fun to talk with them. On a funny note, I got really excited recently when I saw one of my confirmation students wearing a Slayer sweatshirt but soon realized that he wasn’t into them instead he just liked the sweatshirt because of the brand (Supreme). I’m finding that amongst the younger crowd of people that I’m around on a regular basis that there really isn’t an awareness of heavier forms of music.
IE: I see you are married with two young children as well. How connected are you to what’s going on with current day hardcore?
Scott: I’m able to stay connected through social media, especially when our girls go to sleep at night. Though, I’m usually late to the party when it comes to newer bands. I always check up regularly on bands like Sick Of It All and Madball and I really love the New York Hardcore Chronicles page on Facebook.
IE: Are you able to get to as many shows as you would like? What newer bands (if any) do you like? Can you also talk about the blog you do which has a few interesting posts. Where can people read it?
Scott: Not as much as I would like just because of my work schedule and family responsibilities. It’s always a sort of give and take because there are weeks when I’m out almost every night because of meetings or classes or an emergency so I’m hyper aware of what that does to my wife and my girls. At the same time, though, my wife who had no clue of what hardcore was before we met has always been cool about me going to shows. So it’s a balance. I try to get to the shows that I really want to go to like Sick Of It All’s Triboro Tour last year. A newer band that I really have to come to like is Power Trip. I love their latest album “Nightmare Logic”, it’s such a great balance of thrash and hardcore. Solid lyrics and killer brutal sound perfect for the times we find ourselves living in. I keep playing that album through at work (quietly, of course!). I saw them last week in Brooklyn and I was blown away, they have that “it” factor that people speak of. They sounded great and put on a great show. I’m excited to see how big they get and where they end up. My blog is simply me writing about my own life experiences and how they intersect with the Way of Jesus. I’m an avid reader, always seeking to learn new things and trying to make sense of the world around me especially through the lens of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. To go further, I’m convinced that in many regards our everyday experiences are spiritual on some level. Even something like hardcore is spiritual or reflective of our spiritual yearnings. As you know, that’s why I likened a Cro-Mags show in December to being a sort of liturgical/church experience. We’re all seeking to make sense of our lives in this anxious and disconnected age we live in and we choose different mediums in which to do so. Those are the kinds of things I try to write about. People can read my blog at: https://afoolishway.com
IE: Hey Roger. What neighborhood did you grow up in and what was it like growing up there? What was your introduction to punk and hardcore like?
Roger: I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. Despite the fact that The Ramones were from right across Queens Boulevard from where I lived, I remember most kids were into the classic rock and metal. I started noticing concert shirts at JHS 190 in 7th grade - Sabbath, KISS, Van Halen- Floyd, Stones, The Who - but there was a girl in my 7th grade band class who had a Ramones t-shirt - that intrigued me. Four years later playing drums in my first band, the first song we would play was “Blitzkreig Bop”.
IE: What were some of the first records you remember buying? What were some early shows that you recall attending?
Roger: My first record was "Some Girls" by The Stones. I confess my first albums were mainly stuff like The Knack and The Kinks… plus stuff I borrowed from my uncle like The Yardbirds...blues stuff like Albert King. At Stuyvesant High School, we were right in the East Village, and started hearing bands like The Clash, fell in love with the garage revival - Chesterfield Kings, Vipers, Raunch Hands. Always have a soft spot in my heart for 60’s pop and psychedelia. First concerts were The Who with The Clash at Shea Stadium - that's where I also heard David Johansen - who was the opener - wondered what band he was in, and found the New York Dolls. I was hooked on punk, and listened to the hardcore show on WNYU. Shockingly my first punk shows (other than bands I played with on showcase nights at CBs - a guy from a band called The Shock Mommies lent me his snare drum after I broke my drum's skin) were in college in Syracuse, NY. The Lost Horizon in town brought in bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks - at home for the summer caught JFA and Descendents at Maxwell's - finally found Murphy's Law too - who opened for Bad Brains with Token Entry at the old Ritz/Webster Hall. My college bands guitar player was sorta my punk guru - told me about Agnostic Front, Necros, GBH, Dead Boys, etc.
IE: Over the last couple of years there have been a few books put out by people like Harley Flanagan from the Cro-Mags, Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) as well as the Tony Rettman book titled NYHC. Many stories in these books paint a picture of the Lower East Side of Manhattan back then as an almost lawless wasteland where you basically risked your life going there. What were your experiences like traveling into Manhattan and going to shows during the early 1980's?
Roger: It's funny because I played sports at Stuyvesant High School and we practiced football, baseball and track at East River Park. So I was always walking around down there on the Lower East Side - discovering a different part of the city. It was grittier than the leafy streets of Forest Hills for sure, but I always loved the energy and felt like I fit in - still do despite all the changes since the 80’s. Found all the great record stores at that time too. I remember taking a date from the suburbs to see Red Kross at the old RAPP arts center, and had to assure her we were going to be okay. She had never been down there.
ROGER WITH LONGTIME NYHC SCENESTER RAT BONES AT A NY1 SHOOT AT GENERATION RECORDS
IE: For some reading this who live in the NY area they may recognize you as a news reporter from NY1 News. At what age did the idea of being a reporter grasp you and what kind of schooling, training and lower level aspects of reporting did you have to do until you actually got your current gig?
Roger: I decided I wanted to get into broadcasting in high school. I originally wanted to be a sportscaster, and attended Syracuse University where guys like Bob Costas and Marv Albert had gone. Studied broadcast journalism at the famous Newhouse School - and while I did wind up doing some sports play by play for high school football and minor league baseball, eventually I drifted into news when I started my career in radio, eventually transitioning into television. It was always my dream to come back home and work in NYC - which happened in 2001 when NY1 hired me. I had worked in upstate NY and the Hudson Valley for about 10 years in radio and TV in towns like Oneonta, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie.
BELOW: GUITAR STRAP ON BEASTIE BOYS' (AND NY1 FAN) ADAM HOROVITZ WITH NY1'S
PAT KIERNAN & ROGER CLARK'S PHOTOS
IE: What I think is amazing is the fact that you have been able to incorporate your ties with the NY punk and hardcore scenes into some of your stories. Who are some of the people within the scene that you have interviewed for NY1 and what is the process like with your bosses as far as what you can and can’t cover? Have they rejected any of your punk interview ideas?
Roger: I do enjoy getting punk/hardcore the attention it deserves - and since my stories are "features" - on the lighter side of life - and I am part of the planning process, I can pitch stories to my producers. Over the years I have done stories about the Murphy's Law Art show - interviewed Raven and Kelly Forsythe (randomly the guitar player in one of my first bands wound up in Murphy's Law for a bit - Ben Shapiro) - also did a feature on the New York Hardcore Chronicles film with Director Drew Stone and interviewed the great Vinnie Stigma, talked with Jimmy Blast Furnace about his 9/11 tribute show - and got a great sneak preview of The Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum (the deputy director is a Forest Hills guy too). It's funny - so many from the scene are from the old neighborhood - Steve Poss, Vaughn Lewis and Kenny Gabor of Strong Management, who manage some great punk and metal bands.
IE: What kind of things do you like to do when you are not at work? You have a band as well, correct? Can you tell us about the band and the other things in your life outside of work that you enjoy doing?
Roger: When I'm not working, I am a husband and a dad to my 7-year-old son Jack… coached him in flag football and helping with his baseball team. Enjoy spending time with the family - having adventures, exploring the city, going to the beach...Mets, Jets, Rangers and Knicks games. I play drums and sing a little in a band called Perp Walk - it's a trio - been playing 4-5 years - not hardcore, more along the lines of quirky punk and hard rock. Someone once called us "No Wave" - we have played Hank's Saloon, Otto's, Bar Matchless, Golden Sounds, Steeplechase Beer Garden, Freddie's Back Room and once Bowery Electric, which was exciting because I had seen the Johnny Thunders tribute there just a few weeks before. We have a show coming up at Desmond's June 2nd. I love playing and watching bands before and after us. Just a great night out. I also still play softball for my local bar in Yorkville - my skills are diminished, but at one time I did want to play second base for the Mets. I love playing and then hanging out after and talking to the regulars about the neighborhood, have a few beers, play the jukebox too much.
IE: Do you feel lucky having grown up in NYC at the time that you did and experiencing the things you did?
Roger: I can't imagine growing up anywhere else but NYC. The energy, the music, the food. I have lived in four of the five boroughs - born in the Bronx, then Staten Island, Queens, and finally Manhattan (my great-grandmother lived in Coney Island so that's my Brooklyn connection) - the city is in my blood - watching it change before our eyes can be a mix of strange, disappointing, and astounding. But it will always be my home. Don't get me wrong - I love getting away from time to time, kinda have a thing for small town America too - but there is nothing anywhere like my hometown. Sinatra was right about if you make it here, you can make it anywhere. Unless you want good pizza and bagels. Then you have to come back.