If you have been even a semi-regular show goer in the NY area in the last 30 or so years there is a good chance you recognize this next guys name or even face. Ratbones! One of the most famous (or infamous) heads to ever rip it up on the dancefloor, Ratbones has had a long history of wreaking havoc in the pit that also includes some short lived frontman gigs with New Faith and Iron Bound NYC. Far from a choir boy in his younger years Ratbones has undoubtedly carved out a name for himself within the NYHC scene and beyond by living and breathing hardcore punk rock 24/7/365. In more recent times Ratbones has pushed his very own Pitwear clothing and even made an appearance in the No Redeeming Social Value video for a song that bares his name. How many others out there can make that claim? Check out what he had to say in this November, 2020 interview. Above collage photos by: Carl Gunhouse, graphics by John Franko.
IE: Hey Ratbones… let's start off with where you were born and what was your neighborhood like growing up?
RB: Born William Robert Furlong in 1967 at Point Pleasant Hospital. I grew up off Exit 91 off the Garden State Parkway. In Parkway Pines, NJ… Brick Town. Doing regular kid shit with my friends… playing in the woods, hunting turtles and frogs, swimming in the summer at the broken bridge, riding BMX bikes… jamming to Led Zep, Sabbath and Van Halen. I lived right behind BJ Cook Park. When I was very young… like 6, I remember the kids from the town over in Wall Township would come to the park and our football teams (Wall vs Brick) would RUMBLE! Like straight up bats and chains and throwing bricks at each other. It was scary. My older brother Tommy had to go down and fight. He was a Brick Dragon. Him and his friends would meet up at our house then go to the park and fight it out till the cops came… then they would run back to our house! Crazy shit. I remember it but I was just a kid.
IE: How did you end up with the name Ratbones?
RB: It’s funny cause there used to be a big thing about what my name was… and nobody ever knew. It was just Ratbones… that’s it… Ratbones… that's all you'd get out of me. Still till this day, but I use my real fathers name… Tayler, and I go by my middle name which is Rob if someone does ask me my name in my everyday encounters. Anywho… there is also this… I did use the name Ratt first before the band. I ran away from home at an early age to go live with my brother in Detroit. We all came up with nicknames and they called me Ratt with 2 t’s. Before we ever heard of them… now fast forward 3 years and Ratt and Roll exploded… haha! I just dropped the second T… then in 1986 when I moved back to Jersey I was living in Island Heights with Tommy Southard, the guitar player of the band Social Decay. I lived in a skateboard half pipe in his back yard and a few of the NJ hardcore bands would practice at Tommy’s house. He would have shows and shit all the time… fun and drunken mayhem… even the day I met Tommy Southard’s mother we were drunk. We had been drinking potato mash all day. He is all like “Yo mom this is my new friend… Rat”. I was like bllahhh all over her. I puked all over hers legs and shoes just home from work, haha! Anyway back to how I got the name Ratbones is… one of those infamous basement gigs Social Decay was playing and the drummer Eddie Ramos (R.I.P.) just looks up in between songs at me and says… “you’re not Rat… you’re Ratbones! And it stuck and from that day on I’ve been Ratbones!
PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
IE: How old were you when you started finding out about punk rock and hardcore?
RB: I remember being into new wave bands like Devo, Plasmatics, Ramones… I even feel the Fixx and The Police fell into that realm back then. Blondie… all that stuff. I really loved bands like Rush, Van Halen, Sabbath. At 14 I ran away from my home in Jersey. Then I went to live in Detroit with my older brother. He had a band that was the biggest metal act in the Detroit area and they were called Halloween. Metal got huge and I pretty much went with the head bangers! Haha! But then things really changed in the mid-80’s when I went to Cali with a girl I was dating. I bought some punk records like G.B.H. “City Babies Revenge” and a bunch of tee’s… Sex Pistols, Ramones, all those… Cramps, GBH. I got a bullet belt too. When I came back things went sour in the house with me being punk rock… that was not accepted… at all. I got thrown out of the band house soon after. As a matter of fact my whole life changed when I got into punk. I knew I was home amongst my own kind of weird misfits. I had a lot of tapes… my first four records were GBH “City Babies Revenge”, Misfits “Die, Die My Darling”, Dead Kennedy’s, “Fresh Fruit…” , and “Rat Music For Rat People”. Also, the first time I ever heard of TSOL and Bad Brains was on that “Rat Music” compilation. The song from Bad Brains was called “You”… “You wanna know if I could hate ‘ya”... I loved that song… anyway, I was off to the races… then the shows.
IE: Do you remember your first hardcore show? When was it and who played?
RB: Well that's a hard one to nail down. You gotta understand I had already been to well over 300 shows by the time I had seen my first real punk show. As a roadie for my brothers band Halloween they opened for every national act that came to Detroit… they opened up for everyone so I got to see tons of bands at a very young age. Some of the bands were Armored Saint, Queensryche, Dokken ,Quiet Riot, Aerosmith, Ozzy, Maiden, Priest, Lizzy Borden, Nasty Savage, Exodus, Exciter… so many. My first real concert was Quiet Riot at Cobo Arena in ‘82 maybe? I had red spandex on! Haha! But my first real punk hardcore show would have to be Dead Kennedy’s at Harpo’s in Detroit… I would guess 1985? First time I saw a lot of punks in one place. Harpo’s had a tall stage… the main floor was a pit… literally. First time I saw anyone stage dive… it was wild with all the kids going nuts all over the dance floor… people were jumping off the tops of the PA speakers. It was like 30 feet… they kept diving and no one would catch them. They hit the floor and were taken out on stretchers. I always heard that after that whole groups of folks dropped out of the scene totally cause the kids were getting hurt and a couple were paralyzed. That always stuck with me… not to quit ever for any reason. This was gonna be my life from now on. The other strange thing about that show was it was at Harpo’s… a biker owned place. It had only had heavy metal and rock and roll up till that show… but it was cool overall with no fights. I was hooked from this point on.
IE: When you first started getting into the pit was there any fear or any kind of intimidation factor involved?
RB: Maybe a little in the beginning. Like you could get stabbed or jumped but mostly I was a maniac in the pit from the start. Me and my boys were the thing that most others feared back then. We ran that shit… anyone tried and jump a kid dancing in the pit, we would handle it like it never even happened. Don't start none there won’t be none… it's how we rolled.
IE: Do you have any stories from early on that could be considered “hard lessons" when you first started getting into the pit at shows?
RB: It was me that was always trouble in all the clubs. They hated me… they hated us and they never knew what it was all about. It was just money to the clubs… we had shows in backyards and in people’s houses back then… the shows at any VFW Hall was always a good show, but yeah, I don't think I was ever scared of what was going on. Like I said, I was mostly 86’d from every club to see bands back then but I still got in to cause plenty of mayhem. They could never keep me out for the whole show… it was part of my thing back then. It was cool to be most hated by everyone… fuck ‘em… we rule! Who are they? Not punks! That was our attitude and shows were scary… all kinds of bikers at shows… punks, skins, rockers, and regular people… it was a fucking shit show every night… add in the drugs, alcohol, and strippers and you got life going pretty good!
WALL OF DEATH WITH RATBONES @ CITY GARDENS, TRENTON, NJ. PHOTO BY: KEN SALERNO
IE: Ken Salerno took a photo of you from the old City Gardens club in Trenton, NJ and in it you are literally smack dab in the middle of this crazy scene with all these skinheads going off. Please tell us more about this show and what you remember about it as well as what was going on when the photo was taken.
RB: Yeah, that's a great photo. I remember it was on the cover of the East Coast Rocker and we all felt like hot shit. That's the infamous wall of death at a Murphy's Law show at the Trenton club known as Shitty Garbage, haha! City Gardens… we all hung out there and we were called the family. We hung out drinking in the parking lot and we used to smoke sherm wet in an ice cream truck deep in the junkyard next to the club. They hated us all. I was banned for life every weekend! Haha! I always made it in for the good shows… the sign at the door would say “no slamming, no diving no spikes, no docs” and we would always write NO FUN! at the bottom! Randy Now would get so pissed! Haha! We terrorized them all…good times!
IE: Another well-known Ratbones photo is you jumping off a balcony at a show. Can you also give us some info on this photo as well?
RB: Another classic photo from the 80’s… that's from a Buzzcocks show at St. Andrews Hall, 1988 in Detroit… another club I was banned for life from. That was a big part of it back then… they didn’t want the real hardcore stuff happening but when certain bands played shit just went nuts. I always took shit to the next level so yeah, I was never welcomed in the clubs…but we felt like we ran shit back then. It was like WE are the scene… not you club owners.
TO THE LEFT IS THE BALCONY JUMP PHOTO ALONG WITH KEVIN SYKES' DRAWING OF IT
IE: What would you say was the most dangerous situation you've found yourself in at a hardcore show?
RB: For me it was more living on the streets was hard, not the shows. We always had to fight bikers and shit like that. Plus we fought Nazi skins all the time too. Other than that not much was dangerous… just the lifestyle itself… things like that you had to watch your back from everyone.
IE: With as much time you have put into dancing at hardcore shows you must have had your share of injuries. What kinds of stuff have you hurt and what was the worst injury you've had that you got from going off?
RB: Back in my heyday I only got hurt a few times… from a broken eardrum from a stage dive where I landed perfectly on some skins head from the PA. I used to break my coccyx bone like your hips landing on your spine a lot when people would get sick of holding you up and drop you on your head. It happened a lot .. other than that I was almost invincible… I could go hard as hell for 5 or 6 bands and go out all night getting twisted and then get up and do it again the next day. I mean i was on a lot of other things back then… haha! but we won't get into all that!
IE: How's the body feel these days?
RB: I feel great at my age. I can still go a lap or two in the pit but at my age it's more like… never waste a hard on and never trust a fart.
PHOTO BY: BRIAN BERSON
IE: On the new No Redeeming Social Value album they wrote a song about you called “Ratbones”. How awesome is that?
RB: Man, I gotta say they kept telling me about it and I was like yeah, ok? Haha! Then I heard it live a few times but when I saw the video I was blown away. Super great guys… I’m really humble in real life so it's cool. Maybe I will write a song about them now .Who knows? Haha! Thanks guys… do I still get into your shows for free?
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR "RATBONES" BY NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE
IE: You have been a regular on the NYHC Chronicles show talking about another interest you have in vintage toys. Care to talk about that and how you got into it?
RB: Yes, I’ve been into collecting most of my life… toys, comics, records, hardcore memorabilia… over 35 years long… if not longer than I’ve been into hardcore. When I was a kid I went to Collingswood Auction and Peddlers Village… Englishtown Auction on the weekends. I love a flea market and can spend all day in there so as I'm getting older I realize I wanna start really becoming a seller and it was right when Covid hit that Drew Stone of the band Antidote, manager for Biohazard in the 90’s, started his amazing You Tube podcast… The New York Hardcore Chronicles Live and since I had been vending at all the shows we have been having at Niagra he asked me to stay on board with the show he was starting. We have 75 episodes in the books already…crazy… the rebirth of something has been happing. Young kids that really love the music and NYHC scene so it is really awesome to get to have a platform for me to go. I show everyone out there that I’m going in a new direction and doing something I love and have a passion for. I mean I retired from the moshing… I’m just too old now… but I can sell my Piitwear (my clothing line I started in 2005) t-shirts, records, and comics… toys and crap till I croak. I can’t take it all with me when I go so hit me up if you are looking for a cool toy you used to love as a kid. I will find it for you… for a fee of course. Anyway, I really enjoy it and I’m only just getting started.
RATBONES SINGING "JUDGEMENT DAY" AT THE RAYBEEZ TRIBUTE SHOW, NYC, OCTOBER 1, 2017.
PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
IE: Your top 3 NYHC albums of all time?
RB: That’s a hard one… is this a trick? Really its gotta be the 2 comps… “The Way It Is” and “Where The Wild Things Are” and of course “The Age Of Quarrel” but really its all the best. I can’t pick one… I love all the bands from NYC and a lot of OG punk hardcore bands from the very beginnings of this thing… too many to mention because I loved all those bands.
IE: Anything else you wanted to add? Thanks for your time.
RB: I just want to thank everyone that ever helped me when I was down and out… thank you to all the friends I’ve made over the years… we are just getting started! Please get in touch with me @firstname.lastname@example.org to order Pitwear from me and I’m also on Instagram and on Facebook so hit me up, buy a shirt and be cool. It’s been fun doing this and I've only scratched the surface… I mean who knows, I need to start writing a book cause I’ve seen and done some wild shit for the love of this thing we call hardcore. The fire still burns and I’ll see you in the pit beeotches! RATBONES NYC.