Friday, March 29, 2013

Talking to Drummer Tony "Detroit" Scandiffio

When I first approached Tony about doing an interview he seemed more than a bit surprised by my interest. "Who would be interested in my story?" seemed to be the vibe I got. The idea was one that had built slowly during the last couple of years. Though we had become casual friends through his playing drums in I Hope You Die, The Extras and Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun with fellow friend and early UBRS contributor Shannon Perez. It was his involvement with the seminal Hardcore act Hogan's Heroes and 90's purveyors of positive Hardcore OS101 that really peaked my curiosity. The following is part I and II of my interview with Tony. Here's what he had to share. James Damion

James: Being that I got into Hardcore at the same time Hogan's Heroes first demos were making the rounds.
Hogan's Heroes, along with many others were an early and very important influence on me.
I know you weren't one of the original cast of characters so I wanted to know how you came into being the bands drummer.

Tony: You're right,  I was not an original member.  I had been in bands during high school. Both  part of  the  school and in my own bands with friends. Nothing noteworthy, mostly covers with high school friends. I was really into skateboarding at the time. I started  skating seriously in eighth grade. I had  clowned  around  on  a skateboard as  early as i can  remember. Maybe since the fifth grade, I don't know. When I entered the eighth grade, my family  moved  to Bricktown New Jersey on Mantoloking rd. which is the  road  that leads  to the beach. Me and my friends would ride our bikes with surfboards  in tow all summer long and loved it. That whole area was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy. We would steal wood in order to build skate ramps. During that time I was introduced to Punk and Hardcore.
We skated to the Dead Kennedy's, Agent Orange, The Faction, Youth Brigade and so many more.

It was around this time when one of my skater buddies who was also a drummer told me he had another skater friend who was looking for a drummer. He had immediately thought of me because they had a really fast style and didn't know anyone that fit that. I gave George, the band's guitarist, and we met up with the bands bassist John Cuccunello. They explained they needed a new drumming due to the fact that their original drummer and singer from the first two demos had left the band. I told them I would check out the demos and get back to them. They had some shows already booked and needed an answer quick. I thought about how I had really wanted to play original music. Especially punk and skate rock. So I learned the demos and tried out for the band. When the day of the try out came I finally got to meet Skip, who was trying out to be the bands singer. Skip was from Bayville or somewhere a little further south. We were in the same boat, trying out for the band. Not knowing if we were going to make the cut or even if we really wanted to be in the band. Somehow it all clicked and we started practicing, skating and playing shows. Before we knew it, we were ready to record. "What, record?" "But we already have two demos." We needed to record something with our new singer Skip. We made another demo and started playing as many shows as we could. We were working hard and trying to find our way. This one show we played at CBGB's was a particularly good Sunday matinee. As we finished our set we were approached by this guy Nicky Garret. He was really stoked on us and explained played in the U.K. Subs, had his own record label and wanted to do a record with us. We signed the contract in the cantina next door that night. I was maybe sixteen. I couldn't believe it.

James: Growing up in Queens, NY. The Jersey shore felt like the other side of the planet to me. What was the Jersey HXC Punk scene like at the time?

Tony: The question of New Jersey Punk/Hardcore VS New York Punk/Hardcore is an interesting one. We were trying to play New York City for a while. We were from Jersey and at the time there was a lot of schism and stigma clouding the scene. You had Punks, Skins, Straight Edge, Drugs and New York VS New Jersey. It was a real challenge for us to get a show in New York. Once you get a show... how do you keep the New York kids in the room when they here you're from Jersey. A lot of hard work, determination, blood, sweat, more blood and sweat. That's how! Our singer Skip was very likable and had some serious charisma. It helped us a lot. We were working hard and playing harder. We had just been signed and were not about to lose to New York. "We're from Jersey." "We play loud and we play proud."

We had become friends with bands like Token Entry, Murphy's Law, American Standard, Vision and many others along the way. We did this awesome little tour with them down to DC and Richmond.
We were getting good shows and were about to put out our second record when all of John's hard work really started paying off. We landed a weekend of shows with California's Uniform Choice,
7 Seconds and the
Circle Jerks. There was a lot of momentum and we were totally stoked. All of our hard work and networking was paying off.

James: I always felt the bands sound had more a California feel than that of the New York scene. Would you agree? Would that have any thing to do with being so close to the shore or were that just the sound you found an influence in?

Tony: The mix of Jersey/Cali beach influenced sound, we had that vibe. We all surfed, we all skated and we all loved the beach and loved  Punk Rock . The blonde dreadlocks and the fact that we were not looking to be one of those "Tough Guy" Hardcore bands.

James: Some of the bands I worshiped early on were skate bands like the Faction, JFA and closer to home, Token Entry. How old were you when you started skating? Were the specific bands of that ilk that really set the tone? What about surfing?

Tony: Our overall sound had a lot of different influences. The Faction, Agent Orange,
7 Seconds, the Descendents and even the Bad Brains. The band definitely had a Cali,
Posi-Core vibe. There was definitely a positive message to our songs.

James: So, how does a kid from the beaches of New Jersey get the nickname
"Tony Detroit"?

Tony: Well  back  in  the  day (start wind chimes and  dream  sequence  music) I worked on the back of a garbage truck and was a Red Wings fan. The company I worked for had a productivity incentive   which would allow us to work from 6:00 am till noon (6 hours ) and get  paid for eight hours if we used      a designated  meet up truck had all the work  done. When we would first meet up in the AM and made arraignments to get it and go. We'd be hanging off the trucks, running through streets, yards, woods, parking lots and highways in order to get work done as early as possible. This way, we had so much more time to enjoy the day fishing, surfing, skating, music or sleeping. Whatever it took to make that time. That was what was important. We were maybe twenty and at that time and getting that free time to party was what life was all about. A lot of the guys I worked with would see me in my
Red Wings hat and knew that I played some form of Rock and Roll. That and anyone that worked on my truck knew my "Get it and Go" attitude. That all led to the name
"Tony Detroit". Somehow, the name just stuck. The term "Tony Detroit Diesel" was inspired, humbly so, by Mackie. (Cro-mags, Leeway) OS101 was playing a show at CBGB's and Mackie was talking to Skip. (OS101 singer) Mackie said "Your drummer RIPS."
"He's fucking diesel." A pretty awesome compliment coming from one of the greatest drummers of our generation. So I hear this and thought "That's a compliment that should not be taken lightly." It stuck with me. Through the years I've been called "Tony Detroit", "Detroit Tony Diesel", "The Beat" "T-Bone" etc, etc.

James: I was always curious as to how Hogan's Heroes became OS101. Was there a significant breathing period between the two bands? What was the cause or reasoning in regards to the change?

"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" Tony keeps the beat with OS101 at CBGB's
Tony: There was quite a bit of time between the two. I was collaborating with a lot of different people at the time and was always open to jamming with others.
After I left Hogan's Heroes they went on to release more music and tour with replacements.
One of which was Ian, who would later play bass in OS 101. John, the bass player for Hogan's Heroes switched over to guitar for them. After Hogan's Heroes had run their pace, John and Skip asked me if I wanted to come on board to form OS 101 with them. At the time, I was playing in another band. I was playing with them and OS for about two weeks. Finally, I decided to ask the other one to find a new drummer. OS101 my main focus.

James: You went from a tough guy Hardcore scene in the 80's with Hogan's Heroes to dealing with some straight up thugs in the 90's with OS101. Yet the band always remained positive and had an uplifting message. I can only imagine how hard it might have been to not let that effect you.

Tony: As far as the whole thugs VS tough guys in the scene goes. Skip always had a charisma and smile about him. We were all good hearted guys and though drama might be happening all around you. You don't have to escalate or participate in any of it. We knew a lot of fold that were tied to it. Their music was Hardcore, which to most, is a very different and aggressive sound. We were just trying to unite kids that were into the music and a part of the scene. Anyone who had seen us would never refer to us as tough guys or thugs.
We just wanted to have fun and give everything our best. It wasn't rare when we got respect from some of the so called "Tough Guys". Some of them grew up watching us play shows as Hogan's Heroes as kids. We had longevity on our sides, especially in South Jersey.

James: OS101 was also the first Hardcore band I remember since Murphy's Law to incorporate horns into your music. How did the opportunity to bring in Catch 22's horn section on "Pure Vida" come about. Did you ever get to play out live with them?

Tony: I was going to a lot of shows at the time. I was a lot younger and had a lot less responsibilities than I do now. At the time, both OS 101 and Catch 22 were on
Victory Records and were featured on one of the labels samplers.
(Victory Style III and IV) I really liked their songs and noticed they were from Jersey. I went to see them play live.
They were a lot of fun. Something that OS 101 always tried to bring to their shows.
It was a no brainer. We became friends and played some shows together. At the same time, we were getting ready to record "Pure Vida" over at Trax East. It just so happened that they lived in the immediate area and were more than familiar with the place, having recorded there. Trax East is an amazing studio is South River New Jersey, owned and operated by Eric Rachel. The song,
"Spam in a Can" had a an intro with lots of wasted space that needed to be filled. When we asked if they would be wiling to record some horns for the record. They loved the idea. We met up and they really juiced it up. Etched in history by Eric from Trax. The man is so easy to work with and knows his gear. There is no comparing the work he does. I'd recommend him and the studio to anyone.

Hogan's Heroes  Download

OS101 Victory Records

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